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In the January - March 2016 edition of Sanctuary Social Work News, we catch up with a social worker to find out what a typical day involves in emergency duty care.

5.00pm - My first call is about a complex Mental Health Act assessment that takes several hours to address. The patient has been detained for breach of peace at a local police station and the police doctor has requested the assessment. 

6.00pm - With the help of two mental health approved clinicians (psychiatrists), I go to the police station and assess the patient. The decision to admit him as an informal patient is straightforward and is made with his agreement. However, as he is not a local resident and does not have any local connections, I know finding him a bed is not going to be easy. 

9.00pm - After several calls to mental health services, I find out that they are unable to assist with admitting him locally as he is known to the mental health services in the West Midlands area. Eventually though, I manage to find a bed for him in the West Midlands, which is a huge relief for everyone. The next hurdle was to look at how to organise a transport for him.

11.15pm - I take a call from a care agency reporting a ‘no response’. I check with the local hospital and attempt to make contact with the next of kin, although I have no success in getting hold of them. Given the situation, I make contact with the police to request a welfare visit. I spend some time discussing with the police why I am not able to make the visit on my own. Once I explain my reasons, the police assist by attending the address of the person concerned. It was a relief when I found out that they had gone to bed early and could not hear the carer knocking on the door, although it could quite easily have been a different situation.

11.45pm - Having overcome the accommodation hurdle for the patient detained for breach of peace, I tackle the transport required to take him to the West Midlands. The local ambulance services will not transport him that far out of their geographic area and the local NHS authority cannot assist with paying for the transport. As a duty social worker (and approved mental health professional) I find myself stuck. The situation would be different if it was daytime but during the night there’s not a fully functioning team available and so decisions are often delayed until the morning.  Following several calls though, I manage to arrange for transportation funded by the authority taking charge of his care.

11.40pm - I take a call where I am needed to undertake a Mental Health Act assessment on someone who has presented to A&E at a local hospital four times in the past two weeks. The referrer did not know what to do as the male is in his late 40s and sleeps rough. I make arrangements for him to get assistance with his housing needs, and make sure I document his case so that my daytime colleagues are aware of his situation.

To read the rest of this feature, simply view Sanctuary Social Work News online. You can also subscribe to the magazine, which is free of charge.

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