Sue huckson program manager national institute of clinical studies
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Improving care for Mental Health patients in Emergency Departments. Sue Huckson Program Manager National Institute of Clinical Studies. National Institute of Clinical Studies. Improving health care by: providing practical help to increase routine use of existing research knowledge

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Sue Huckson Program Manager National Institute of Clinical Studies

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Improving care for Mental Health patients in Emergency Departments

Sue Huckson

Program Manager

National Institute of Clinical Studies

National Institute of Clinical Studies

Improving health care by:

  • providing practical help to increase routine use of existing research knowledge

  • identifying & testing ways to increase uptake of sound research

  • building relationships and working collaboratively

  • turning evidence into action


  • Emergency Department Collaborative

    • demonstrated change and improvement through collaboration

    • established a network of clinicians seeking to improve emergency care

  • Emergency Care Community of Practice Program

    • national collaboration

    • access to information and resources

    • discussion forums

    • implementation projects


  • Opportunity to test the Community of Practice concept

    • established following the NICS ED Collaborative

    • model for rapid dissemination of innovation

    • multi layered

  • Building on the network of multi-disciplinary emergency care practitioners

  • Clinician focused model

Context for MH-ED project

Mental health presentations to the ED

  • Increasing presentations (12%)

  • Evidence practice gaps

  • A hot topic, relevant to the public and clinicians

  • Expert group

    • Identified the project indicators

    • Guiding principles for change

  • Strong support from ED and MH clinicians

    • First initiative of the EC CoP program

  • Framework for improvement

    45 sites nationally applied

    Ist Wave September 2005, 3 Victorian sites

    2nd Wave February 2006, 3 Victorian sites

    Joint clinical leadership from MH & ED

    Program level

    Team level

    Strengthening collaboration between MH & ED


    Project Aim and Targets

    • Aim

      • To improve the care for people with mental health problems who present to the Emergency Department

    • Targets: In 12 months,

      • 90% of MH presentations are discharged, transferred or admitted within 4hrs

      • The ‘did not wait rate‘ for MH presentations is 3% or less

      • The number of MH representations is reduced by 50%

    Guiding Principles for Change

    • Referral

      • Pre hospital referrals are appropriate to ensure MH patients receive the access to the right service or care

      • Development of linkages with other services e.g. police and ambulance

    • Presentation

      • Identify and develop processes for appropriate levels of care e.g. medical and MH assessments

    Guiding Principles for Change cont

    • Assessment

      • Development of agreed protocols and assessment tools across ED and MH services

    • Management

      • The development of discharge and management plans in consultation with patient and all other relevant providers

    Principles to Support the Change

    • Governance

      • Development of a share responsibility across ED and MH for care of this patient group

    • Communication

      • Development of systems to feedback impact of change across the interface for ongoing review

    • Attitudes and behaviours

      • Development of processes to share information to enhance an understanding of each service

    One Size Doesn’t Fit All

    The Practice Gaps

    • Triage - Three MH triage processes

      • ACEM, Tasmania triage scale, SESAHS

    • Medical clearance

      • Lack of agree process between MH & ED

      • Massachusetts medical clearance protocol

    • Chemical restraint

      • Midazolam v Lorazepam v Haloperidol

    Medical Clearance

    “from the patients point of view, medical procedures are often undesirable, particularly those that involve surrendering bodily fluids or subject to radiation”

    “emergency exception to the doctrine of informed consent”

    “if the benefits are doubtful, the patients’ wishes should be a more influential factor”

    Allen et al. New directions in mental health services. 1999

    What is our strategy

    • Skills training to implement and sustain change

    • Provide project support

      • access to expertise and resources

      • web based communication system

      • data collection

    • Connecting people and teams

      • identifying existing forums to support ongoing collaboration

      • early planning for sustainability

    Interventions being tested

    • Developing MH fast track protocols

    • Primary mental health survey

    • Pre hospital medical clearance concept

    • Working with in-patient units on referral and discharge policies

    • Quick response protocols for the > 65 age group

    • Shifting observation areas to quieter observable part of the ED

    • Review of specialling protocols and use of security


    • The complexity of the MH-ED interface

    • Range of stakeholders involved

    • Established attitudes and behaviors

    • The different working styles of ED & MH

    Successful ImplementationFrom Trish Greenhalgh et al “How to Spread Good Ideas” 2004

    • Team building to develop motivation, trust & shared values

    • Embeddedness in inter-organisational support networks

    • The nature of the innovation and fit with organisation’s skill mix, work practice and goals

      • relative advantage, low complexity

    • Elements of organisational structure and capacity

      • devolved decision making and change skills

    • Conducive external pressures

    Successful ImplementationFrom Trish Greenhalgh et al “How to Spread Good Ideas” 2004

    • Leadership

    • Early involvement and co-operation of staff at all levels

    • Personalised, targeted high quality training

    • Evaluation and feedback

    • Linkage with the resource system

    • Allocation of defined roles

    • Provision of dedicated resources

    • Motivation, capacity and competence of individual practitioners


    • Background to the EC CoP

    • Overview of the MH – EC interface project

      • The guiding principles

      • The practice gaps

      • Our strategy (not unlike the patient flow collaborative)

      • What’s being tested

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