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30 August, 2020

Responding to coronavirus: information for GPs

In the best interests of the health of all our service users, staff, visitors and the wider public, St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS) is currently implementing contingency measures against the potential spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

We regularly share updates on our latest coronavirus measures and protections on our website and social media channels. Please check here for guidance and information which will be helpful when you are referring a patient to our services or supporting a patient who is currently attending our services. 

Please note that the following guidelines apply to all of our campuses: locations and contact details can be found here.

Service updates for GPs

  • Who can currently attend our campuses?

    Our campuses will only be open to staff members and service users with a clinical need to be onsite, as advised by their clinician or multidisciplinary team. Please note that we are currently in the process of enabling all clinicians to conduct appointments and groups with service users through video conferencing or Telehealth processes, with guidance on this to be provided to service users by phone and email in advance: more details on this are provided in the questions below.

    We have introduced limited visiting to inpatient service users in St Patrick's University Hospital (SPUH) only. We cannot welcome visitors to our other campuses at this time. The processes visitors are being asked to follow are outlined in a question below. In recognition of these limited visiting opportunities, we encourage service users and their families and friends to explore alternative methods of communication, such as phone calls and video calls.

    Clinical personnel from outside our service - such as ambulance personnel or accompanying nurses - will be admitted to the campus in accordance with our infection control guidance, outlined in the last item of this list of questions. Notification of such personnel attending our campuses is requested in advance, with the personnel requested to leave the campus as soon as they have completed their duties. 

    This arrangement will be under constant review.

  • What visiting restrictions do we have in place?

    Inpatient service users in St Patrick’s University Hospital (SPUH) can welcome a maximum of two people during one visit per week. To ensure everyone’s health and safety, visits must be booked in advance and must meet the requirements below.

    Children and young people aged 16 or under may visit, once they are accompanied by an adult who is responsible for their care and for ensuring appropriate conduct during the visit, and once they are compliant with the requirements below.

    Visiting times are restricted to 10am, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm or 6pm daily. After agreeing a day and time that suits for their weekly visit, either the service user or their visitor(s) must book a visiting time by calling our team on 01 249 3602. Unplanned visits cannot be facilitated.

    On the call to book a visit, the service user or their visitor will be asked to give the name of the intending visitor(s) and the service user they will be coming to see. The administrator on the call will give a location in SPUH where the visit will take place, and the person making the call will be asked to remember this.

    If you are visiting a service user, you should arrive to the main reception of SPUH at the scheduled time for your visit. As in the infection control measures outlined in a following question, you will have your temperature taken by a thermal imaging camera on entry and you will be asked to complete a standard COVID-19 screening questionnaire.

    If these screening protocols are passed, the visit can go ahead and you will be given a mask to wear throughout your time on campus by our reception staff.

    You will then be directed by a nurse to the location you will have previously been given.

    Visits may last for up to 45 minutes, after which you will be asked to leave. Please note that no food or drink can be consumed during the visit for health and safety purposes.

    We are very grateful to our service users and their supporters for their patience and understanding with these restrictions, which are in place to best protect everyone’s health.

  • Are we continuing to admit inpatient service users?

    Yes, we are continuing to accept referrals for inpatient service users.

    We have introduced a home care inpatient package, consisting of the highest levels of one-to-one support provided remotely, to ensure service users receive necessary care and treatment. Service users availing of this package will receive daily or more frequent contact, along with psychopharmacological input arranged in liaison with local pharmacies.  This package will include the following elements:

    1. Assignment to a multidisciplinary team (MDT)
    2. At least daily contact from a member of the MDT by videocall, where available, or, where not, by phone
    3. Participation in an MDT meeting by video link or by phone at least once weekly
    4. Medication and prescribing review with the same frequency as regular inpatients (measures to ensure service users receive their new medication will be enacted)
    5. Appropriate individual therapy sessions with members of the MDT, delivered by video call
    6. Appropriate ongoing psychotherapeutic interventions delivered remotely
    7. 24 hours per day, seven days per week support.

    Due to the spread of COVID-19, all referrals for admission will be offered homecare admissions, with minimal exceptions. This will be discussed in detail with service users, and they will be informed of their options in advance.

    The mental health risk of the service user will always remain a priority, with considerations including clinical risk or the need for treatment which can only be delivered onsite, such as electroconvulsive therapy, being taken into account. Approvals for home care packages will therefore be taken on an individual basis, with all new referrals for inpatient services being reviewed by a consultant psychiatrist and a team of clinical directors to ensure best practice.

  • Can you continue to refer your patients to our services?

    Yes, our Referrals and Admissions Service remains in operation for inpatient and outpatient referrals.

    You can send us online referrals directly from your practice management system; this is a secure and fast way to send referrals and a copy of the referral is automatically saved into your patient's records on your GP Practice System. The process for home care inpatient admissions, outlined above, will be conducted through technological means, using a platform available to both the service user and our staff member.

    Only those referrals whose clinical mental health risk assessment determines it will be physically admitted to hospital. A member of our Referrals and Admissions Service will contact these service users on the day before their admission and will carry out a screening protocol against coronavirus. Any risk factors which may be identified will be discussed and considered with a doctor before their admission.

  • Can you continue to use our online referrals system?

    Yes, our online referrals system is continuing to operate. You can send us online referrals directly from your practice management system; this is a secure and fast way to send referrals, and a copy of the referral is automatically saved into your patient's records on your GP Practice System. Easy, step-by-step guides to sending online referrals through HealthOne, Socrates, and HPM can be found here.

  • Are appointments and programmes still running?

    Yes, our services and programmes are continuing to run, with contingency measures in place to protect everyone's health and safety.

    As such, we have scaled up technology-mediated interventions for people attending our Dean Clinics and day services; these interventions will be underpinned by rigorous risk-assessment, combined with assessment of suitability for the services we can provide. We are offering technology-mediated appointments to all service users of our Dean Clinics. All day services will now also be delivered either online or via telephone.

    A member of staff will be in touch with service users ahead of their appointment or session to inform and guide them on this. Instructions on how to take part in the appointment or session through the new technology will also be sent to service users by email

  • Are volunteer support groups still running?

    No, all volunteer support group meetings, hosted at both St Patrick's University Hospital in Dublin 8 and St Patrick's, Lucan, have been postponed until further notice. These include Alcoholic Anonymous, LifeRing, Orientation, AL-ANON and ANEW meetings

  • What infection control measures are in place on our campuses?

    Our campuses will only be open to staff members, service users with a clinical need to be onsite, as advised by their clinician or multidisciplinary team, or clinical personnel from outside our service who need to accompany a service user for a limited period. Inpatient service users in St Patrick's University Hospital only will be able to welcome a maximum of two people during one visit per week.

    Everyone on our campuses should follow the guidelines below.

    • Wash your hands thoroughly before you arrive at the campus
    • Use our hand hygiene gels at the entrance and throughout the campus
    • Identify yourself at the reception desk when you arrive
    • Observe hand hygiene and coughing and sneezing etiquette closely, as promoted by the HSE, throughout your time on the campus
      • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and sneezing
      • dispose your used tissues into a bin
      • wash your hands thoroughly after coughing or sneezing
      • wash hands thoroughly before leaving the campus.
    • Follow social distancing measures throughout your time on the campus by keeping a distance of at least one, and preferably two, metres from other people and avoiding physical contact.

    Please note that, when you arrive at the reception desk, you will be asked the three questions below: if you answer positively to any of them, we will be unable to permit entry to the campus.

    • Have you returned to Ireland from any other county (other than Northern Ireland) in the past 14 days?
    • Are you a close contact of a confirmed or suspected case in Ireland?
    • Are you experiencing any of the following symptoms: cough; shortness of breath; breathing difficulties; high temperature?

    In addition, a thermal imaging camera has been installed at the main entrance to St Patrick’s University Hospital. This camera will take your temperature as you come into the building. If you have a temperature equal to or greater than 37.5 degrees Celsius or higher, we will not be in a position to allow your entry to the hospital building.