Staff at the Maudsley hospital are the first mental health workers to use a system that helps doctors and nurses from different hospitals work together to stop patients needing to go to hospital.
South London and Maudsley hospital NHS trust (SLaM) staff have been using phones, tablets and an app to get on the Consultant Connect app and talk to their counterparts from Guy’s, St Thomas’, King’s College and Lewisham hospitals about their patients. SLaM staff used the system more than 650 times over the past year.
This is important because people with mental health problems are more likely to have physical issues than other members of the general population. The system is also useful because it saves staff using up time calling switchboards at other hospitals.
In two-thirds of cases the conversation with a specialist at one of these other hospitals meant the SLaM clinician could treat their patient’s physical health condition without the need to refer them on – which was particularly important during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Consultant Connect has been used by staff at other NHS trusts for a while but SLaM is the first mental health trust to pick it up, as part of its plan to integrate mental and physical health. Clinicians can contact hospital doctors in more than 80 specialties. About half the calls are made to specialists in diabetes, endocrinology or cardiology.
Ray McGrath, lead nurse with SLaM’s Integrating our Mental and Physical Healthcare Systems project, said: “We spoke to around 200 staff and quickly established that one of their primary concerns was spending so much time seeking advice from partners in physical healthcare when an issue could be resolved in just minutes by connecting with colleagues more easily.
“Many of our patients have multiple complex physical health conditions on top of their mental ill health. Our clinicians need to be able to support conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease – as well as meeting patients’ mental health needs. Connecting our clinicians to specialists in the acute hospitals means they can get advice quickly and, potentially, avoid a hospital admission or referral.”
Mr McGrath added: “Acute hospital are difficult settings to care for patients in mental health crisis but, during the Covid-19 pandemic the potential of Consultant Connect really began to shine through because it became really important to avoid unnecessary transfers between hospitals due to increased infection risk.”