Mental Health Liaison services supporting Bristol’s older people

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP) were commissioned by local Primary Care Trusts to provide a mental health liaison service for older people admitted to the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI), Southmead and Frenchay and now, 18 months on, the work is showing very positive results. Early evidence is that the liaison service has helped to reduce inpatient stays by 3.6 days.

Often, an older person may be admitted to a ward due to having suffered a fall or chest infection but there could also be an underlying mental health issue which the ward staff were not aware of. The Acute liaison service for Older People support acute care hospital staff by assessing and recognising mental health issues such as dementia or depression in older people. Their findings and advice on treatment and care are shared with the ward staff, allowing for an improved monitoring of the person’s needs.

AWP’s Frank Herrity is Bristol & South Gloucestershire Older People’s Mental Health liaison team leader, and he believes that there is great benefit in this approach. “The NHS isn’t about just providing beds and then filling them,” says Frank, “but about finding the best and most appropriate care for an individual.”

“Our team also work closely with partner organisations – social services and intermediate care – to co-ordinate any services which the person may require on discharge from acute ward. Partnership working is essential because dementia is not just a medical matter; it is fundamentally a health and social care issue.”

Jane Buswell, Nurse Consultant Care of Older People, University Hospitals Bristol, says:

“The Trust is constantly working to improve the quality of the care we provide to all of our patients. Developing an effective liaison service for older adults is one of the key recommendations in the National Dementia Strategy launched last year. People with dementia sometimes experience longer stays in hospitals. Working in partnership with the liaison service on early intervention and management allows patients to receive the right care and earlier discharge from hospital.”

One of the vital elements to improved care is providing the right environment which is why the team will always try to get service users out of hospital as soon as is appropriate and return them to more familiar surroundings.

“Hospital is a strange and alien environment to most of us, and that applies to those with dementia even more,” Franks explains. “Wherever possible people will return home and be supported by partner organisations such as social services. These links help acute hospital liaison move people on from acute hospitals in a safe and timely way.”

Access to the best and most accurate information is another key aspect of care, so the liaison team work closely with families and carers to provide them with the knowledge to understand the issues and to reassure them. Awareness plays an enormous role according to Frank: “It’s really at the heart of what we’re doing. We raise awareness of mental health issues with ward staff, partner organisations, carers and families which, in turn, helps them to support the people who rely on them.”

Media contact
Simon Gerard, 01249 468088

Notes to Editor
Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP) is a significant provider of specialist mental health services to adult and older adults in: Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Swindon. We provide Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in Bath & North East Somerset and in North and West Wiltshire, and specialist drug and alcohol services and secure mental health services (including prison mental health services) to people living across a wider area.

Increasingly we provide treatment and care in people’s own homes and other community settings, reflecting the preferences of our service users. Our community services are supported by high quality inpatient services that provide short term assessment, treatment and care.