Joining the weekend night shift at University Hospital Crosshouse this month (November) are two new team members who aim to help stop the revolving door of violent injury.
In their bright pink t-shirts Navigators Jack Sutton and Helen Castle are easy to spot. Their job is to offer support to anyone admitted to the hospital’s emergency department as a result of violence.
Whether patients have been subjected to an assault, domestic abuse or self-directed violence such as drug and alcohol misuse, Jack and Helen can offer assistance during that “reachable moment” when a patient may be open to accepting support.
Jack, who has a background in community and youth work, said: “Often people want to find a way out of violent lifestyles but may feel trapped. Our job is to connect with patients both inside and outside the hospital and support them towards a healthier and happier life.”
Navigators can help calm patients in crisis to allow medical treatment to be provided. Where it is needed they aim to create a connection which allows them to provide ongoing assistance beyond the emergency room with everything from addiction to housing issues.
Helen will be a familiar friendly face to the team at Crosshouse having worked at the hospital for 21 years latterly as a receptionist in the Emergency Department (ED). Helen said: “At the desk you are the front line really. Every day was a challenge and I loved it. You have to be quite firm, but still have a lot of empathy. I would see patients come in and, once my role was done, I wouldn’t hear what happened to them. Now as a navigator I’m involved in supporting patients to get the help they need to ensure they don’t have to come back to hopsital and can live their life free of violence.”
David Chung, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at NHS Ayrshire & Arran, said: “We are really pleased to welcome the Navigator scheme to University Hospital Crosshouse and look forward to it making a positive difference for patients and staff alike. The support the Navigators can offer is invaluable and has been shown as literally life-changing in many cases. I’d rather prevent someone being a victim of violence than treat them, and this is like seatbelts were, a method of injury prevention, by a different means.”
Navigator is run by the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (SVRU) in partnership with charity Medics Against Violence and the NHS with support from the Scottish Government. Project lead, Inspector Keith Jack, of the SVRU said: “Jack and Helen have already connected with many of the excellent services that exist across Ayrshire. By acting as a bridge to these life-changing services we can together improve the outcomes for those who attend at our emergency departments in crisis.”
Navigator was piloted successfully at Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 2016 and since then has been rolled out to The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Glasgow.
Dr Christine Goodall from Medics Against Violence, added: “To date the navigators have supported more than 1000 patients in Glasgow and Edinburgh with a wide range of issues. We have seen a really positive response from hospital teams who recognise the navigators fill a gap in the emergency department and can often work with the medical staff to ensure patients accept treatment improving not only social outcomes, but medical ones too.”