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New roles in Leeds: Dementia and Mental Health Liaison Practitioners

Many Demential and Mental Health Liaison Practitioners support primary and community health teams in the management of complex needs arising from dementia and co-morbidities; including depression, anxiety and delirium linked to physical health long-term conditions and acute illness.

Dementia and Mental Health Liaison Practitioners, Sarah Walker and Jenny Jubb, are based within the Neighbourhood Teams covering the East and the West of Leeds, soon to be joined by colleague Neal Beckwith who will cover the South. The Practitioners provide invaluable professional expertise and advice to clinicians, patients, carers and patients’ families.

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Sarah and Jenny (pictured) attend regular case management meetings with the integrated neighbourhood multidisciplinary teams including community matrons, social workers, district nurses, interface geriatricians, allied health professionals and voluntary sector partners. With extensive knowledge of mental health services in Leeds, Sarah and Jenny can act as a bridge, helping clinicians and patients link up with the right support.

“Through attending meetings, we can ensure mental health needs are given equal consideration to improve the quality of life for the people we work with,” says Jenny.

From working with healthcare providers such as creative support, the Phoenix Health and Wellbeing Centre, they have been able to raise awareness of mental health needs and develop skills and knowledge in specific areas such as life story work, providing dementia friendly environment advice, to supporting with care planning and engagement issues. “By working with other organisations we can help to improve general mental health and reduce social isolation” says Sarah, “the smallest of changes can have a hugely positive impact on an individual’s life.”

“Changing the colour of a toilet seat and towel rails in an all-white bathroom can address perception problems that many people living with dementia experience. By working with the patient and carer, we can find solutions like this, allowing the patient to retain some independence and keeps them at home for longer”.

The Dementia and Mental Health Liaison Practitioners are community based and seek to provide person-centred care through a variety of methods. These range from providing consultancy to clinical colleagues, supporting with assessments and signposting to appropriate third sector organisations. Having direct access to LYPFT records (PARIS) can also often complete the holistic assessment/picture of the service user being discussed. The team facilitate the development of life stories (live documents featuring pictures and memories to help families and carers understand their past and what they find comforting), to delivering specialist training and have supported with dementia friends’ awareness sessions.

The real value in these new roles lies in the flexibility to look at individual cases and consider the best course of action, alongside the individual and carer. “This might involve helping families and teams work creatively together to manage risks in the community”, highlights Jenny.

The new roles are providing pro-active care working to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions. This is achieved by looping in the right service at the right time; for example working alongside Yorkshire Ambulance Service staff to develop care plans to reflect an individual’s needs. It can be as simple as “increasing awareness that some people may just need reassurance over the phone rather than a visit to A&E” adds Jenny.

Feedback on the introduction of Dementia and Mental Health Liaison Practitioners has been overwhelmingly positive. By contributing to case management meetings, the team are able to provide a joined up service that avoids duplication and meets the needs of the service user at the earliest point. Sarah explains, “we can use mental health service history information together with Leeds Community Healthcare and Adult social care records to paint a full picture, highlighting a persons’ previous service needs, that may not be known to other healthcare colleagues”, ensuring that the most appropriate support is recommended to the individual.

A selection of comments from a recent evaluation of the roles:

“This role can only add to providing a more cohesive service to patients by fully addressing all their needs and not just their physical health”

“The role has provided a quick response to any advice I have required; problem solving long-standing issues, the practitioner has supported staff in their roles”

“Working with a mental health and dementia practitioner has opened doors for my patients and families, and been a useful support for me”.

Following a successful pilot from March 2014 to May 2015, funding has been secured for three permanent positions, managed by Leeds and York Partnership Foundation Trust, with demand for more.

For more information on the Dementia and Mental Health Liaison Practitioners team please contact Alison Gordon, Clinical Operations Manager, at Leeds and York Partnership Foundation Trust on alison.gordon2@nhs.net.