July 20, 2021. News

Hospital Navigator scheme to support young people launched at Royal Berkshire Hospital

As part of a Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit programme, the Royal Berkshire Hospital is the first of five hospitals to launch a new scheme to provide targeted support to young people attending the Emergency Department.  It seeks to offer a listening ear, support within the local community and a confidential conversation with a trusted adult, to help protect those at risk from future harm.

The scheme takes a particular focus on those who may have been admitted in circumstances related to risky behaviours or who may be frequent attendees at A&E.

The Hospital Navigators programme will see trained volunteers from the local community based at Royal Berkshire Hospital’s Emergency Department.  Having received treatment, young people aged between 13 and 24 can meet and chat with one of the Navigators who will then be able to signpost them to support in the community such as one-to-one mentoring, support services and community groups.

In addition to the Royal Berkshire Hospital committing staff time and resources, the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit provided £25,000 as injection funding. Starting Point, a Reading-based mentoring organisation, has been commissioned to coordinate the recruitment and training of volunteers and their work on the ward.

The programme is built on the concept of a “reachable moment” – a point when a person may be reflecting on what led to their current situation and its impacts and are more open to receiving guidance and support to change their behaviour or circumstances. 

By engaging with young people in this way, it is hoped that support can be offered and they can be steered away from risk of further incidents or re-admission to hospital.

The Navigators will be based at Royal Berkshire Hospital’s Emergency Department on Fridays and Saturdays from 8pm to 12am. In their highly-visible orange T-shirts, the Navigator volunteers will be available to speak with those admitted. Alternatively, a clinician can refer them once their treatment is complete. When Navigators are not on the ward, clinicians can still make a referral if the young person requests it, allowing for contact to be made once they have returned home.

Starting Point has recruited and trained its first cohort of 21 volunteers, including seven team leaders who coordinate shifts and help manage referrals. Full safeguarding procedures are followed and they receive support from Starting Point professionals.

Four other hospitals in the Thames Valley are also developing similar schemes, in Slough, Aylesbury, Oxford and Milton Keynes. While the Royal Berkshire Hospital is the furthest ahead in implementing the scheme, good progress is being made with recruiting scheme coordinators at the other hospitals, which prepare to launch in coming months.

Eamonn Sullivan, Chief Nursing Officer at Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We are really excited to be welcoming the Navigators into our Emergency Department at Royal Berkshire Hospital. We’re proud to work alongside colleagues from Starting Point and the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit to help make a real difference to some of the young people that arrive at our Emergency Department, and help prevent them from ending up in the same circumstances that brought them to hospital in the first place.” 

Stan Gilmour, Director of the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit, said:

“The Royal Berkshire Hospital and Starting Point have together made huge progress in developing the Hospital Navigator scheme and are leading the way, with volunteers now actively engaging with young people to help them.

“An admission to hospital creates an opportunity to reach a person and encourage them to reflect upon their actions or situation. Through that engagement and by providing tailored support we can positively change their behaviours and direction, reducing future risks.

“The programme uses volunteers drawn from the local Reading community, which makes it all the more powerful; an example of the community coming together to keep the young and those more vulnerable safe from harm.”

Tim Blake, Programme Manager from Starting Point, said:

“We’re so excited to be able to launch the Navigator programme within the Royal Berkshire Hospital. We have seen the impact that can be made when a young person regularly meets with a trusted adult, and we are looking forward to seeing the impact the Navigators can have within the A&E environment.

“The staff within the Royal Berkshire Hospital have been huge advocates of the service. Their support, alongside that of the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit, has been invaluable. We believe that this is just the start of seeing long lasting change within the local community.”

Tim Blake & Sam Lloyd of Starting Point, wearing the distinctive Navigator t-shirts