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A new Mental Health Emergency Service has opened to help support residents during the pandemic.

The ‘Orchid’ Mental Health Emergency Service has opened at Springfield Hospital. The innovative 24,7 health emergency department cares for patients with mental health problems who would otherwise have had to go to A&E. Patients of all ages are accepted, including children.

The aim is to create a mental health alternative to acute hospital emergency departments, for as long as the coronavirus pandemic continues, where patients of any age (including children) who have been triaged or rung ahead on a dedicated number, will be able to attend a mental health emergency department.

This new service will take much needed pressure off local acute trusts who are dealing with the full brunt of the pandemic.

This dedicated Mental Health Emergency Department will ensure anyone in crisis, who does not have serious physical health needs, will be able to receive specialist care from expert mental health professionals day or night.

Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director for Acute and Urgent Care at South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust Dr Sean Whyte said:

“We are extremely proud to be setting up the country’s first all-age mental health emergency service at Springfield University Hospital. It represents the hard work of scores of staff alongside their day jobs, as well as a small group of service users who co-designed aspects of the service with us.

“Our business is providing the best possible care for those with mental health conditions and right now, this mission is more important than ever. That’s why, in just one week, our Trust set up this much-needed Mental Health Emergency Department, which will support and care for those people in our community who are most in need of our specialist mental health care.

“Our staff are working with great dedication and commitment throughout this pandemic to ensure our community’s mental health is safe, and this pioneering service is one of the ways we are doing this.”

Cllr Piers Allen of the Adult Social Services, Health and Housing Committee for Richmond Council welcomed the new service, adding:

“Coronavirus is putting a strain on the mental wellbeing, as well as the physical wellbeing, of our whole country. Some people need specialist help and support to help them to deal with the pressure of isolation, illness or in some case bereavement.

“These new emergency mental health departments are an innovative response to dealing with this challenging situation. These vital services will reduce some of the pressure on hospital A&E departments, whilst ensuring that people with mental health needs are receiving the specialist support they need.

“I welcome these new units and we will support both South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and South West London and St. George’s Mental Health NHS Trust to ensure they have access to the resources they need from the local authority.”

This service will care for patients in Richmond, Wandsworth, Merton, Kingston and Sutton.

Those who need support should call the Trust’s mental health support line on 0800 028 8000

Organisations who can refer patients to these services include acute A&Es, police, London Ambulance Service and NHS 111.

A screening process must take place before patients are referred to the service, to ensure any physical health problems do not require urgent medical attention. Therefore, these services do not operate on a ‘walk-in’ basis but take referrals through the mental health support line and through the organisations listed above.

– from a Richmond Council press release - 20 April 2020