New crisis mental health phone line launched

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A new crisis mental health phone line has launched across Essex.

The 24-hour service, launched by Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT), offers immediate and specialist support to adults experiencing mental health crisis.

Anyone in need can dial 111 at any time and select the option for mental health crisis (option 2).

Callers will be connected to trained staff at EPUT who can provide timely and appropriate support and advice.

The service is for people aged 18 and over and aims to ensure those in need of support can access it quickly when they need it most.

It is hoped the service will help alleviate pressure on hospital accident and emergency services and GP surgeries.

Andy Brogan, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Executive at EPUT, said: “It is vital that people are able to access specialist support without delay when they are experiencing mental health crisis. This service will enable people to do just that 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“Working with colleagues at Clinical Commissioning Groups across Essex, I am pleased that we have been able to launch this service to help people when they need it most.”

Robotic cats and distraction sleeves helping people with dementia

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A trial using robotic cats with a resident in a local Essex care home has made such an impact, Thurrock Clinical Commissioning Group has worked with Thurrock Council to purchase more to support people affected by dementia.

Maisie from Carolyne House Care Home

Maisie from Carolyne House Care Home

It is well known that pets often soothe people and make a person happy with a sense of purpose, Dementia patients frequently become agitated, anxious and frustrated and could benefit from a pet, but would have difficulty in managing the safe care of a real animal. Research has shown that an effective, drug free way to soothe a dementia patient is to give them a soft toy they can interact with.

Introducing the dementia robotic cat. This item is sold by an American company and it has shown to provide comfort for people living with dementia. It’s a battery powered cuddly fake cat that purrs, meows and moves. It also responds to touch when its petted and hugged. During this Covid emergency where people are unable to visit their relatives, they provide much needed comfort.

Mark Dorado, Community Mental Health Nurse within the Older Adults Wellbeing Team commented;
“Our patient used to be very agitated and unsettled, but the cat has worked miracles, they seem much calmer.”

Irene Lewsey, Head of Mental Health Transformation and Commissioning for Mid Essex CCG said:
“We know that for people with dementia having something to focus on, who reacts to them in a positive way can be hugely beneficial and calming. We had pleasure in offering this robotic cat option to an agitated patient in a care home, which has proven to be a success.

“We are now investing in further robotic cats for other patients with dementia in homes across south Essex.”


Cllr James Halden, Cabinet Member for Children and Adult Social Care, said:
“I am delighted that this initial trial with the Thurrock CCG has made such an impact that we are able to help more of our residents who are living with dementia.

“Strengthening the wellbeing of those living with dementia in Thurrock, particularly during this time when COVID-19 has meant that many people are potentially alone for extended periods of time, is vital. It has been proven that pets can reduce the effects of dementia, such as anxiety, depression and loneliness, and we hope that dementia sufferers living in our borough will be comforted and benefit from the companionship of these therapeutic robotic cats.

“We will continue to work with the Thurrock CCG to ensure that dementia patients living in Thurrock get the vital support and care that they require.”

In addition to the ‘cats’, further work has been done to support people going into hospital with dementia by getting community knitters to make Twiddle Muffs, Lap Blankets and Aprons. These items are given to patients to keep and offer something to keep them distracted and less distressed. 60 have been made and distributed so far, patients get to keep them.

Each Robocat and Twiddle muff is for single patient use only.

To help in the quest to knit further Twiddle Muffs, contact your local CCG to check out where to send them.

My Care Record

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In the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, making sure that health and care professionals can access information across services is even more important.

The My Care Record approach is currently being implemented across the East of England during this period of emergency.

My Care Record is an approach to improving care by joining up health and care information. Wherever possible, health and care professionals will be able to access care records from other services if it is needed to deliver care for individuals with COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms.

For example, we are working to make sure that doctors, nurses and co-ordination staff at places you may receive treatment for COVID-19 can see important information from your GP record. This will make it easier and faster for them to deliver effective care.

Several different secure computer systems are used across the East of England. These will allow health and care professionals to digitally access records held by other services. Being able to see information such as your medical conditions, previous test results, and medications will help the people caring for you to deliver more effective, joined-up care at this critical time.

All your information will be held securely. The My Care Record website has all the latest about how information may be used.

Maternity app that’s a ‘UK first’ rolled out across Essex to give pregnancy support and advice

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A ground-breaking maternity app that provides women with seven-days-a-week access to secure direct chat and trusted information from registered midwifery staff is now available to women booked to give birth at Basildon, Southend or Mid Essex hospitals.

Called Maternity Direct, it’s the first software of its kind in the UK. The app will allow women to access support during the current pandemic without leaving home.

Set up for non-urgent enquiries, the Maternity Direct app ensures pregnant women have swift access to advice from local midwives without an appointment or even a telephone call. A record of the digital chat is stored in the secure application and on Trust servers.

With up-to-date information and a midwife to hand, women can access non-urgent support and advice when they need it. It can also reduce the need for non-urgent appointments, saving women time while protecting appointments for those women who require closer monitoring.

It was developed by midwives from Basildon and Thurrock Hospital who partnered with software developer Acadiant Limited to create the app. It is now being rolled out at Southend and Mid Essex hospitals this week, across the newly-merged Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, highlighting how this month’s merger of the three hospitals is improving the sharing of innovation and expertise for the benefit of patients.

Since August more than 5,000 women have used Maternity Direct to ask questions or seek reassurance from midwives at Basildon and Thurrock Hospital. Nearly 80% of women chatting said they would have used another NHS service if the app wasn’t available.

Feedback from women who have already been using it in Basildon has been hugely positive.

One local woman who used the app during her pregnancy said: “I was approached to test the app at an antenatal clinic. I always used Facebook for non-urgent queries and, as midwives are very busy, I didn’t always get an instant reply. This app is much better, really easy to access and the chat feature is a great way to connect quickly with my midwife.  I recommend this app to all mums-to-be.”

Chief nursing officer Diane Sarkar said: “This truly is a fantastic innovation which supports women throughout their pregnancy, not only providing a more streamlined service to them but also improving the delivery of care by staff. Hospital and Acadiant staff have worked so hard developing this app, so it is fantastic to see such positive feedback.”

Pregnant mums choosing their care at Basildon, Southend or Mid Essex hospitals will need to fill in a maternity self-referral form before they are given access to the app:

NHS Still Here For You, No Matter What

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4 May 2020

NHS Still Here For You, No Matter What

NHS Here for you

 Health leaders across mid and south Essex are reminding patients that GP services, pharmacies, NHS 111, out-of-hours services and emergency departments are all still available to patients.

Diane Sarkar, Chief Nursing Officer, Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Whilst it is really important to follow the government guidance to stay home during this period, it can be confusing to know what to do when you are feeling unwell.

“We need to ensure people are still accessing help, particularly with serious illnesses as these conditions have not gone away just because of coronavirus. NHS 111 online and by phone, hospitals and GPs are still providing the same level of care they have always done.

“It can be very dangerous to put off getting seen as you can put yourself at risk of late diagnosis of things such as cancer, heart attacks and stroke.

“We have noticed that children in particular seem to be presenting less, and we are urging parents to make sure they are using the right service for their child if they are displaying worrying symptoms.”

Access to your local GP may initially be by telephone as GP practices are still advising patients to only attend in person if they are specifically asked to. Surgeries across mid and south Essex will be offering video and phone consultations for those who are not asked to attend in person.

Patients should still dial 999 in the event of a life-threatening emergency.

For further advice on how to best use the NHS visit

Jennifer Marshall, Head of Nursing for Medicine from Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust has supported this campaign with a short video which is being shared on social media, watch her advice here:


Notes to Editors

The five CCGs across mid and south Essex have worked together with clinicians from the hospitals to support the Government’s national message about the NHS being here for you when you need it. A collection of videos are being produced from different parts of the NHS system, including GPs and nurses to make sure people are aware that they can and should still access help if they need it.