A new service to tackle head-on the issue of repeat stays in Accident & Emergency wards by people living with alcohol addictions is being pioneered in Greater Manchester.
Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, based in Prestwich, houses the Chapman-Barker Unit which has dedicated beds for people who are deep in the cycle of going to hospital with issues linked to alcohol.
The process is the first of its kind in the country as it accommodates the needs of multiple A&E departments. The programme which has a 97% successful detox rate has been funded for a 12-month pilot scheme. RADAR hopes to be commissioned again so that the service can continue to develop and further reduce problems with alcohol in local communities.
If A&E hospital staff regularly see the same people presenting with alcohol-related injury or illness and the individual wants to change and improve their health, Alcohol Nurse Specialists at hospitals can refer the patient directly to the RADAR Ward. The patient then stays in the ward at Prestwich for five to seven days and undergoes a full detox from alcohol. This will help the patient be in the best position possible to start their recovery journey, engage with community services and break the cycle of frequently attending hospital due to their addiction.
As soon as a person enters the unit, their recovery plan is started and tailored to meet their needs. Patients have arrived with wide-ranging issues which culminate in acute injuries, sometimes relating to domestic violence. In these cases, RADAR looks to link with respective agencies to further address the root issues as the person’s recovery continues.
Sue Chesters, Matron at the Chapman-Barker Unit said, “People arrive here trapped in a cycle and if they are willing to get out of it, we have the resources and support to help them”.
A member of A&E staff can make the call immediately to the RADAR ward any time of day or night.
The pilot scheme began by taking referrals from Salford and Wigan A&E wards but has now proved so successful that it has opened its doors across the North West to 11 acute hospitals.
Joanna Hough, Alcohol Nurse Team Manager at Wigan’s A&E said about the relationship with the RADAR team: “The team make the process very easy and fluid. We have quite a distance geographically between our site and Prestwich but the gap is bridged as we have a good rapport with the team and we know we can contact them at any time”.
Family members of patients who have gone through the RADAR detox scheme have been quick to give positive feedback.
“The RADAR ward has been a lifeline for some families”, said Joanna.
“Their loved one may arrive in crisis with the family at their wits’ end and RADAR is there; ready to help the individual towards a real chance of recovery from alcohol misuse.
“The process lifts the barriers of appointments and enables the person to experience a recovery culture and environment. The service itself is really positive in terms of helping people to get recovery and improving engagement with community services after detox.”
Over 130 people have been discharged from the RADAR ward since its opening in November 2012.
The combined benefits of saving bed days for A&E while addressing the underlying problems for each patient with the correct support has meant that the service has filled a gap that was missing.
A former patient of RADAR said that the work of the team brought him back from the brink.
“Only a couple of months ago I was on the verge of suicide. With no hope in my heart or faith in anyone or anything in life, I had even given up feeling sorry for myself and believe me - I have been notoriously good at self-pity.
Now I am feeling full of hope. The team worked tirelessly for me. I am still abstinent from alcohol since entering the ward and I will be forever grateful for that opportunity and the amazing staff - I even got some inspiration from fellow patients!”
It is reported that as few as 6% of people dependent upon alcohol attend alcohol services. 75% of people who are discharged from RADAR are not admitted to hospital services in the following three months.