A violence reduction group which helps minimise the number of repeat visits to Emergency Departments (EDs) by providing direct interventions to vulnerable patients, has resumed service at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).
The Navigators, known by their pink T-shirts, have long been features of EDs in Glasgow, but had to temporarily suspend services due to COVID-19. Now, back operating at the QEUH every weekend, the group is able once again to help repeat ED patients involved in violence get the support they need to help escape often chaotic lifestyles.
Paul McGlaughlin, 23, is one of hundreds of people supported by the Navigator project who has turned his life around after a long history of violence related visits to the QEUH ED.
Paul first encountered the project during a long stay in the hospital’s burns unit in 2019, where he was being treated following a drug related seizure in his home. Addicted to drugs and heavily involved in drug dealing, Paul regularly attended ED with related injuries but it was only after being referred onto Navigator by clinical director for emergency medicine, Dr Alan Whitelaw, that he was able to get the support he needed to recover from drug addiction, and gain employment for the first time.
Paul was initially introduced to QEUH Navigator, Thomas Hobbs, who mentored him and connected him with Street and Arrow, which offered him employment in the dental hospital canteen, a social enterprise run by the Violence Reduction Unit where he worked for more than a year. The experience helped build his confidence and ground him in employment before he was eventually offered an apprenticeship as an electrician.
Paul credits his turnaround to the intervention at the QEUH, and in the 12 months since, he has not had to visit ED again. He no longer takes drugs and is an active member of the recovery community, helping support others and giving talks to young people to turn them away from violence.
Paul said: “The Navigator programme has truly changed my life. I would be in prison or dead if it hadn’t been for the help of Alan and Thomas at the QEUH. Thomas helped me speak to the right people, gave me a phone to keep in contact, and eventually helped me secure a job with Street and Arrow.
Thomas Hobbs has been a Navigator for three years and supported hundreds of people at the QEUH. On being able to resume services again, he said:
“The one-team approach at the QEUH is crucial in helping ensure patients get the whole range of services made available to them. Working closely with the ED staff we’re able to identify people to help, and while hospital staff provide immediate treatment, we can continue engaging with patients to help point them in the right direction in life, and ensure they are supported along the way. It’s fantastic to get back into the hospital and to begin helping people.”
On an average evening at the QEUH, Thomas can provide interventions for upwards of three to four people. The work being done by Thomas and the wider Navigator team, led by Tam Begbie, plays a crucial role in preventing recurring violence by individuals, which inevitably lands them back in Emergency Departments and puts additional pressure on health services.
Dr Christine Goodall, Lead Clinician for Oral Surgery at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Dental Hospital and co-founder of Medics against Violence, which runs the Navigator project along with the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit said:
“Paul’s story is not unique. We regularly see the same individuals in our Emergency Departments suffering from violence related injuries. These individuals are often not engaged with mainstream services so the ED has served as a valuable first point of contact at a time they might be more amenable to accepting support. The Navigators have done fantastic work in collaboration with ED staff in helping turn people’s lives around and are a huge asset to the QEUH.”
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About Navigator: Working in emergency departments in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Ayrshire, Wishaw, Paisley and Dundee Navigator aims to help stop the revolving door of violent injury in our hospitals. The programme was launched at Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 2015 with two Navigators based in the emergency department. Following success at GRI, Navigator was expanded to include the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and University Hospital Crosshouse in Kilmarnock and late in 2019 to the other 3 hospitals. Navigators have engaged with 2388 patients, 1446 of those within Greater Glasgow and Clyde hospitals.
Navigators complement the work of medical staff by engaging with patients who have been affected by violence and other complex social issues. Using both their lived experience and a wide range of contacts with services outside the emergency room the Navigators offer support to help patients change their lives. The aim is to break the cycle of violence for the individual and ease the pressure that violence places on the NHS. At the GRI Navigator has been shown to reduce ED attendance for those individuals who engage with the programme.