SPECIALIST mental health nurses are to be stationed in the area's emergency department in a bid to offer immediate help for those in need.

A team of four dedicated nurses are now based at Barrow's Furness General Hospital to see patients as soon as they arrive.

It is hoped the innovative move will reduce delays in A&E because staff will no longer have to travel to the Dalton Lane site to offer help and support to people suffering a mental health crisis.

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Staff at FGH are employed by the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust.

However, mental health nurses are employed by a separate organisation; the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

The new scheme is the result of a collaboration between the two as part of the area's Better Care Together programme.

Sue Smith, UHMBT's executive chief nurse, said: "Providing hospital care isn’t just about treating the physical symptoms.

"Sometimes, our patients require support for various different mental health issues, and we want to be able to provide this as quickly as possible for those who need it.

"Working with CPFT has allowed us to develop specific roles for patients in FGH that mean they get quick and dedicated access to mental health support when in hospital or attending our emergency department.

"This is a fantastic example of how working closely with other healthcare providers in the area can really improve services for patients and local people," Mrs Smith added.

Before the mental health nurses arrived on site, A&E staff had to call the Access and Liaison Integrated Mental Health Service to arrange a visit.

In the past, this led to delays while staff travelled to the hospital.

Now, patients suffering an acute episode of mental illness,including those who have self-harmed, will be seen within two hours and offered support for up to 72 hours afterwards.

Inpatients will also be offered help for their mental health conditions alongside the physical care they receive on the wards.

Stuart Beatson, CPFT associate medical director, described the new system as a positive step.

He said: "By working closely with our partners at UHMBT, we can now provide people with better access to mental health support, quickly, and when and where they need it the most.”