“This is possibly the most valuable non-medical change in the management of A&E in the whole course of my career. I think for inner-city hospitals this should be a standard means of engaging with the homeless and disenfranchised people that we have coming to our departments. The reason I say this is because the current mechanisms are failing or the people are not engaging with them, whereas here we’re getting the Navigators catching people at a time when they’re amenable to some intervention.”
Donogh Maguire, Senior Emergency Department Consultant
The programme was launched at Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 2015 with two Navigators based in the emergency department. Following success at GRI, Navigator was expanded to include the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and University Hospital Crosshouse in Kilmarnock.
"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."
David Chung, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at NHS Ayrshire & Arran
Our Navigators complement the work of medical staff by engaging with patients who have been affected by violence. Using a wide range of contacts with services outside the emergency room the Navigators offer support to help patients change their lives. The aim is to break the cycle of violence for the individual and ease the pressure that violence places on the NHS.
"The Navigators were there from the start of the journey, in the trenches with you." Andy* 26 former gang member
"It's great to have human contact. I'm still all over the place, but I'm slowly getting there. Without the Navigators I'd be nowhere." Mairead* 52 domestic abuse survivor
Navigators is a confidential service which is run by the VRU in close partnership with Medics Against Violence, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lothian, NHS Ayrshire & Arran and the Scottish Government.
Navigator can only take referrals through the NHS. Please do not leave messages for Navigator on any of the contact details shown on this website as they may not be picked up. For urgent help the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, the National Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline Scotland is 0800 027 1234, for Police Scotland call 999 in an emergency or 101 for non-emergencies. Help on all of these numbers is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
You can follow Navigators on Twitter @NavigatorsScot and on Facebook @navigatorscotland
Meet Our Navigators
What’s your background?
I’ve had a variety of different jobs from McDonalds when i was 15, through to working as a tree surgeon and a bit of everything in between. Then when I was 20 I joined the Black Watch as a frontline combat soldier serving mainly in Afghanistan.
Why did you join the military?
Life wasn’t going the way I hoped it would go, I was getting myself involved in difficult situations and I needed a, ‘get me the hell out of here now’ card because things weren’t going very well. I looked at the army and I thought i’ll give it a go and I ended up really enjoying it.
How did you get involved with the VRU?
The army asked me to be a mentor for the guys taking part in the VRU’s Commonwealth Games programme, which helped former offenders. I wasn’t sure about doing it because I didn’t know what I had to offer. Then on day three of the programme we were all sitting in a circle talking a bit about ourselves. Some of the guys had been through really hard times after getting involved with the wrong crowd and I realised that really I wasn’t so different to these guys. The only thing that separated me from them was that I had a positive role model who stopped me going too far down the wrong path. I opened up a bit about my own story and the guys were asking me for advice.They seemed to be taking what I said on board and I thought maybe I can help people.
Who was your positive role model?
My dad. After speaking to quite a few of the guys they didn’t have a dad that was around. My dad brought four bairns up at the age of 28, to have someone do that is remarkable. Often the guys I was speaking to didn’t have a dad around, he was in prison, or died of an overdose or he was an alcoholic and they had no stability as a kid. Even though I started to get involved in stuff i shouldn’t have been involved in and done stuff I’m not proud of in the past, essentially it was my dad that brought me back so I was able to take a different path.
Why did you become a Navigator?
I enjoyed the Commonwealth Games work so much that I signed off from the army to become a mentor. It just really appealed to me to use basic human skills to talk to people about their difficulties and be compassionate about the fact that life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. I loved the whole idea of Navigator, I loved the mechanics behind it and the simplicity behind it.
What’s the best bit of the job?
Outcomes. I think most of the Navigators will tell you the same, it’s what gives you the energy to come back weekend after weekend. It’s seeing that little bit of positivity in a persons life that wasn’t there before. We’re not super heroes we’re just helping people to save themselves by giving them hope, energy and self-belief. Seeing the change in someone is just amazing.
What is the worst bit of the job?
The difficulty is you sometimes end up wanting change more than they do at that particular point in time. Maybe they haven’t yet fallen hard enough or they’re just not ready for it. You’re looking at someone who is shattered and broken and yet there’s still a bit of fight and resistance in them to stop them accepting the help on offer. It’s difficult but we have to remain positive that at some point when they’re ready they will get back to us.
What advice would you give to someone stuck in a violent situation?
I would say believe in yourself that change is possible because without that self-belief people really struggle. It’s key to the whole thing. One of the most important things we can do for someone is try to help them believe things can change.
What’s your background?
I worked in homeless and addiction services in Glasgow. I did that for about seven years and then I left there in 2008 and randomly went to work with my friend’s band Glasvegas on tour just travelling around all over the place.
How did you end up going on tour with Glasvegas?
We had lots of those conversations where they’d say, “When we sign our record deal will you come and work with us?” And then they did sign an amazing record deal! I remember they were in New York recording their first album and their manager phoned me and I was sitting at a methadone clinic, which I facilitated. He said, “Well are you gonna come and do this? Give it up and run away and join the musical circus?” It was an amazing opportunity.
I was like a tour mum, or I always like to think I was like a cool aunty, that kind of thing. I worked with them for two albums and then I went on to work with an American record label.
All of the artists I worked with probably should never have made it through one thing or another. Like the boys were from the east end of Glasgow and statistically shouldn’t really have been the band that was picked-up by a major label. And then Sharon Jones who I went to work with, she was told she was too small, too black and too fat to ever bring out an album, but she did. I also worked with Charles Bradley. He was homeless for a lot of years and never actually brought out his first album until he was sixty. So working with them always kind of emphasised to me that your dreams can come true with the right kind of people around you and belief - never give up trying basically.
It was amazing and I got to see some amazing places in the world and I got to share it with some very special people. I was unbelievably fortunate that it worked out that way.
Why did you apply to become a Navigator?
Unfortunately after a battle with cancer Sharon died last year and then Charles’ health deteriorated. He’s better now and back out on the road, but I was fortunate with the bands I worked with and I suppose I was a bit scared of going out again and it not being as great. Then I saw the Navigator job and it really appealed to me because it brings everything in together but it’s not bogged down in red tap. I thought yes this can take me away from the lovely five star hotels!
What is a Navigator?
I suppose it is someone who is there to open someone’s eyes to a happier life, or a different life, a more positive life and to go with them whatever way they want to go. We’re not going to fall out with them if they reoffend or relapse. Like a little shadow, but not a creepy shadow - a good shadow.
How does working with a music star compare to working with someone in A&E?
I think human beings all like to think we’re very different and we’re not we’re all the same really. Even the patients we work with sometimes they want to perceive that their hurt is worse, and it is for them, but everyone has been really, really hurt or in a really dark place in their life at some point. The causes of it may be different, but the way that human being feels is the same.
What’s the best bit of the job?
Definitely the randomness of it, there are no two days the same. I like the autonomy that we’ve got, the ability we have to respond. You can be there when someone needs you, they don't have to wait six weeks to get help.
What’s the worst bit of the job?
There is frustration sometimes when you can see the potential in someone, but it’s clouded for them and they can’t see it. You think why can’t you see what I can see in you? But that’s just where they’re at at the time.
What advice would you give to someone affected by violence?
It’s ok to believe in something different and to take that chance on something different.
Ps Did you know that our very own Geraldine is the inspiration for the hit song "Geraldine" by Glasvegas!