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Hospital A&E staff at Royal London turn to youngsters to improve mental health treatment

PUBLISHED: 12:57 16 October 2017 | UPDATED: 12:57 16 October 2017

Treatment at the Royal London's A&E in Whitechapel. Picture: Adam Scott

Treatment at the Royal London's A&E in Whitechapel. Picture: Adam Scott

© Adam Scott 2014.

Young people with mental health problems who have had “bad hospital experiences” are helping train staff in east London to improve urgent medical treatment.

Many staff “don’t respond effectively” to mental health needs of youngsters having hospital treatment for self-harm, overdose, anxiety or depression.

Now one-day training sessions led by young people have been introduced by Barts Health NHS Trust which have attracted children’s nurses, health care assistants, doctors and ward clerks.

“We want hospital staff to acknowledge and address our mental health needs,” 24-year-old ‘young advisor’ Grace Jeremy said.

“Most young people prefer to self-treat when possible as we have had bad hospital experiences in the past.

“What’s really sad is that many say when they attend A&E they have feelings of ‘shame’ and unworthiness.”

A survey by Barts Health NHS Trust found staff encountering youngsters with mental conditions wanted to improve the treatment they give.

So youngsters were asked what hospital staff need to know. Many felt there was a lack of knowledge of mental health issues.

Grace added: “Young people in crisis want exactly what anyone else going to A&E would want—appropriate care, to be involved in decisions, empathy, understanding and a non-judgmental approach.”

Mental health services for children and young people are provided by two specialist NHS trusts, but many in crisis instead go to the children’s hospital A&E departments at The Royal London in Whitechapel, Newham University at Plaistow and Whipps Cross.

Royal London children’s A&E Sister Felicity Mitchell admitted: “We do tend to look at the mental health issue that we’ve identified rather than focus on treating the young person.

“The training is definitely relevant to our work in A&E, discussing issues that we come up against and learning how we can approach them.”

Hospital staff are caring for more children with mental health problems than ever before, but often lack confidence to meet their needs, Barts Trust found.

The new training course led by a young person is included in a short film commissioned by the trust showing group sessions and interviews with nursing staff and a young advisor.

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