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26 March, 2020

Vital service launched to support mental health needs during COVID-19 pandemic

To ensure people needing it can continue to receive vital mental healthcare and treatment at this time, St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS) has introduced a new homecare service.

The new service provides the highest levels of one-to-one mental health support, offered remotely through daily or more frequent contact over videocall and other technological channels. Liaisons have also taken place with local pharmacies to safely supply service users with the medication they may require as part of their treatment.

In addition, SPMHS is providing remote appointments to all those who use its community Dean Clinic services, conducted over video or phone. All of the organisation’s day programmes will also be delivered either online or over telephone. Every service user who needs it will be fully supported in getting set up with the new technological channels for their treatment.

This suite of supports has been introduced to ensure that those with mental health difficulties receive the care they require, while working together to stop the spread of COVID-19. Access to inpatient care will still remain available to those whose clinical needs require it.

Speaking about these new supports, Paul Gilligan, Chief Executive Officer of SPMHS, said: “The COVID-19 coronavirus presents us with immense challenges. The mental health impact of this virus is substantial; the current period is a difficult time for everyone, with exacerbated anxiety and a potentially increased prevalence of mental health difficulties. The introduction of the homecare package, as well as the implementation of remote access to outpatient appointments and day programmes, is a vital step in ensuring that those who need mental healthcare can still access it in the face of this uncertain and unprecedented global health emergency.”

Mr Gilligan continued, “SPMHS is committed to providing vital care while ensuring that we consistently follow public health guidelines to mitigate against the spread of coronavirus. We are here to play our part in overcoming the challenge. We are also committed to continuing to provide safe inpatient care to those who require it."

SPMHS has also indicated to the Government and to the Health Service Executive (HSE) its commitment to continue to provide mental healthcare and to do all that it can to support them in responding to the mental health aspect of this crisis, which is core to its mission.

The organisation’s confidential Support and Information Line, staffed by experienced mental health nurses, continues to operate from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with an answering and call-back facility outside of these hours.

Details of homecare service

The homecare service will include:

Details of homecare service

  1. Assignment to a multidisciplinary team (MDT), typically consisting of a consultant psychiatrist, nurse, occupational therapist, psychologist or social worker depending on the needs of the service user
  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 phone at least once weekly
  4. Medication and prescribing review with the same frequency as regular inpatients, with measures to ensure service users receive their new medication 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 a day, seven days a week support.

A referral is required for all inpatient services, including the new homecare service. Referrals are provided from a GP or healthcare provider. All of these services are being supported by the main health insurers and are also available through referral from the HSE.

 All adult and adolescent referrals to SPMHS for inpatient care will be offered homecare admissions. 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, being taken into account. Approvals for homecare 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 experienced clinicians to ensure best practice.