‘Lifeline’ community mental health team gets official stamp of approval

One of Gateshead’s community mental health teams has won praise from its patients – and has received the official stamp of approval from a UK body.

The Older Persons’ Community Mental Health service, which is part of Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, provides specialist care, intervention and treatment to older people with mental health problems.

Now the service is celebrating after being given an official accreditation by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych), the UK body responsible for setting standards in psychiatry. While many services require more than one attempt to achieve this, the team in Gateshead passed first time with flying colours.

The assessors were impressed with some of the comments from patients and carers:

“We could not have received a more caring and compassionate response to mum’s needs”

“Nurse X was really amazing and helpful and so was her team”

“They are my lifeline, without them I would struggle to look after my husband at home”

The assessors also highlighted three other areas where the department was particularly strong and providing excellent care:

During their visit and interviews with staff, they were overwhelmed by the clear enthusiasm and teamworking of all staff groups.      

They commented that the use of electronic medical records (also known as EMIS) helped colleagues to communicate with GPs. Assessors said: “There are robust physical health processes in place and good working relationships with primary care teams”.

Finally, they praised the service’s commitment to patients during the COVID pandemic, highlighting the use of digital technologies to support a highly vulnerable patient group and their families, but also the commitment to visit when using such technologies was not possible.

One patient said: “Someone contacts me most weeks to ensure that my husband and I are okay. Plus we get many home visits even through this horrible year with the Coronavirus”.

The achievement comes after months of hard work and preparation by the team, led by Debbie Ross and supported by her fellow community mental health team managers Kristine Flint and Gillian Fithye.

They prepared an extensive written report and accompanying evidence which was submitted to the RCPsych accreditation team. This was followed by a day-long visit by a panel of assessors including interviews with team leaders, team members and with patients and their families.

Joanna Clark, director of operations for community and older persons’ mental health, said: “I’m so proud that the community mental health service for older people has been formally awarded this accreditation – and I want to thank all of the staff for their hard work and commitment to showcasing what an excellent service they provide for patients in the Gateshead community.”

“The past year has been extremely challenging for our teams, like it has been for many across the NHS – so for the staff to emerge from the pandemic with an official accreditation and the heartfelt praise of patients and their carers is an outstanding achievement that they should be proud of.”