Navigator is a new innovative service based within the Emergency Departments of Glasgow Royal infirmary and Royal Infirmary Edinburgh. Quite simply, Navigator is a service that supports people to move away from violent lifestyles.
The idea is that for many people, a period of hospitalisation following a violent incident is a time when they might feel scared, sore or worried and might, due to these feelings, be considering lifestyle changes and wondering how to make those changes. We believe this is a perfect time and hospital the ideal place, for someone to come along and offer some practical common-sense support. This is what our Navigators do. They connect with people to find out what emotional support and services they need to make the changes they want in their lives.
Each of our Navigators has their own lived experiences, both good and bad. They are great listeners, compassionate, non-judgmental and patient. They just really want to help.
Scotland is a country where the vast majority of people live peacefully and safely, not experiencing violence in their daily lives. Over the past ten years Scotland’s murder rate has halved and reports of violent crime are at historically low levels. The reductions are to be celebrated, however for a significant number of people violence is an issue and its effects on lives is devastating.
We know from speaking to people that despite the excellent services available, many are failing to engage and therefore do not get the correct help and support that they need to break the cycle of violence.
Rather than just reacting to the aftermath of violence, we want to understand and address the causes and stop violence happening in the first place. By supporting people quickly and effectively, we can prevent the cycle of violence, which sees so many families getting caught up in tit-for-tat actions.
The Navigators, Alan and Sam in Glasgow and Geraldine and Tam in Edinburgh, work overnight most weekends since this tends to be the busiest times in the emergency departments. They wear bright pink tee shirts so you can tell them apart from the other staff you might see in the hospital such as medical staff, police or social work.
They spend their time walking about the Emergency Department and speaking to people who could benefit from their help. Sometimes hospital staff will refer a patient, other times patients will approach the Navigators. Initially they will just have a blether and sometimes that is all people want. At other times though additional support is wanted to make the changes needed to move away from violence. If so, the Navigators will arrange to meet as soon as possible for a coffee after hospital discharge and gain a better understanding of the issues. By meeting like this they build the trust and understanding needed so people can make often difficult decisions, that will help improve their lives in the long term.
Once people identify what they want to change and discuss what they need help with, the Navigators suggest a range of other services that provide specialist support. They can explain how these services work and how to access them and also help people in making choices. People are in control of what happens but getting the support means the chances of a positive outcome are much improved.
We are delighted that we no longer see the levels of serious violence that we did ten years ago, but we do still see unacceptable levels of violence for instance survivors of domestic abuse, self harming and attempted suicide. The examples are endless and are often complicated by issues around alcohol, drug abuse, mental health and homelessness.
We have supported around 300 people since we started in Glasgow Royal Infirmary at the end of 2015. What each of our cases have in common is distress, fear, a sense of hopelessness and, as a result, no way of seeing a positive way forward.
We are very proud that we are seeing some incredible outcomes: People addressing issues that they have ignored for years; accepting support; reconnecting with family and friends and breaking the devastating cycle of violence which destroys individuals and communities. The ripple effect of someone turning their back on violence is huge – for starters just imagine the positive impact on their children.
From these great outcomes we know what works. Keeping things simple; building strong, trusting relationships; being kind, compassionate and non judgmental; treating people as individuals; being consistent; being there; being practical and most of all, always going the extra mile.
Referrals are accepted through the emergency department at Glasgow Royal Infirmary or Royal Infirmary Edinburgh.
Inspector at Violence Reduction Unit
Navigator Project Lead