• Proportion of service users referred back into community falls from 79 per cent to 55 per cent in March
  • Service user complains that men and women are treated in the same room which is “completely inappropriate and very unsafe and scary for vulnerable women”
  • Trust highlighted large number of complements and overall reduction in admissions

A pioneering new assessment suite for people suffering a mental health crisis missed its target for reducing hospital admissions during the winter.

The Lotus assessment suite was opened by South London and St George’s Mental Health Trust in November, to assess and treat people who need to be detained for a short time for their own safety or the safety of others, or who are suffering from a mental health crisis.

The unit has been set up to redirect two-thirds of its seriously ill service users back into the community and reduce inpatient admissions at the trust.

The trust is currently advising Oxleas Foundation Trust, with a view to setting up a similar suite in Kent.

The target was met in December when 79 per cent of service users were referred back to care facilities in the community.

However, the proportion of patients to be successfully redirected back into the community fell to 55 per cent in March.

The suite reported 182 incidents since it opened in November; 634 patients were seen during this period.

The suite is part of the Springfield University Hospital site in Tooting, and can accommodate up to seven men and women at any one time.

Referrals to the Lotus suite are accepted from street triage teams, home treatment teams, and psychiatric liaison teams based at local acute hospitals.

The trust said seven of the 182 incidents resulted in harm to the patient or others.

One of the incidents involved a service user who absconded from the unit, was chased by police, and died in a traffic accident. A full review of the incident has been launched by the trust into the service user’s death, along with an Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation.

Twenty-nine of the 182 incidents related to access, admission, discharge and transfer issues, 12 were to do with security, 11 with communication and ten with medication, ten with violence and aggression. Self-harming behaviour accounted for six of the incidents. Three of the incidents were to do with service users absconding.

All of the incidents have been reviewed by the management team at the unit, the trust said.

The assessment suite has also received four complaints about services and 20 people have recorded poor experiences through the trust’s real time feedback platform between Novermber and March.

Criticisms included men and women being treated in one room. “This is completely inappropriate and very unsafe and scary for vulnerable women. I can’t possibly rest in this situation so therefore it harms your health,” one service user said.

However, there have been 146 positive comments about Lotus since November. One service user praised the “24 hour attention and genuine caring attitude”; another service user noted how treatment was delivered with “upmost care and respect”.

Acting medical director Mark Potter said he appreciated that gender segregation was important to service users and that men and women would be assessed and treated within separate suites within the next three months.

With regard to the death of a service user, the trust has since taken the decision for the Lotus main door to be locked whenever there is a section 136 patient who is at risk of absconding.

Dr Potter said that whilst the 182 incidents at the suite may look alarming, “the culture we are trying to engender is one where staff are encouraged to report a high number of incidents. This reduces the number of serious incidents in the long term.”