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King George Hospital and Queen’s Hospital are having to hire more nurses to cope with the increase in suicidal young women since the start of the pandemic.
At a board meeting on Tuesday May 11, chief executive Tony Chambers said many of these patients were depressed young women who arrived at the emergency department at night or on weekends.
The board heard these patients “end up waiting a very long time” in the emergency department, which is distressing both for them and the staff that care for them while they wait.
Tony Chambers said: “Their experience is not as good as we want it to be. It’s not going to be an easy fix to get it right… Being realistic, this will take some months.
“We are making sure we develop our assessment facilities and think about creating an environment more conducive for distressed mental health patients.”
Director Hannah Coffey said: “These are often very disturbed young women who are self-harming.
“The consequences of looking after these patients for a long time in distressing circumstances is having an impact on our staff.
“We need to make sure we adequately support them with the significant increase we have seen.”
Chief nurse Kathryn Halford told the board the trust was already “buying additional mental health nurses to support staff” in the childrens’ emergency department.
Dr Ruth Crowley, a GP from the Cranham Health Centre, suggested the hospitals pool resources with the primary care sector to afford staff, which was well received.
She told the board: “The funding we get (in primary care) probably won’t cover the salary of the right candidates, they probably won’t be qualified enough.
“We might need creative accounting so we can combine finances and get the right candidates.”
The trust is also considering creating a specialist children and young adult mental health service (CAMHS) unit alongside its adult emergency department.
However, a BHRUT spokesperson confirmed the trust is still in early stages of discussions with its healthcare partners, such as the North East London Foundation Trust, which is a mental health trust, and had no time frame for when this may materialise.