St Andrew’s helps shape national guidance

An expert from St Andrew’s Healthcare in Northampton has contributed to a new guide designed to improve mental health services for Deaf people.

Dr Alex Hamilton, a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist with extensive experience in a range of secure healthcare settings, has been part of an expert reference group working closely with organisations including the Royal College of Psychiatrists and deaf charity, SignHealth.  Alex and his team have helped to devise a guide for clinical commissioning groups and local authorities to make readers more familiar with the needs of Deaf people who have mental health problems; including issues of access, developmental difference, language and culture.

The difficulties Deaf people face when seeking help are often misunderstood. The new guide recommends that Deaf people should be able to access a therapist fluent in sign language, a recommendation that has the potential to significantly improve the mental health of many Deaf people.

St Andrew’s Healthcare is one of the main providers of specialist deaf secure mental health services in the UK. Fairbairn Ward in William Wake House, Northampton is a 15-bed, medium secure ward, which offers therapy and rehabilitation for Deaf men with a range of diagnoses, including mental illness, learning disability, brain injury, autism spectrum disorder and personality disorder.

Treatment programmes on Fairbairn Ward are designed to support and engage with Deaf patients, with around a third of the nursing team being deaf themselves and all staff are trained in British Sign Language (BSL). Dr Hamilton has had a lifetime experience of the Deaf community, giving him a valuable insight into Deaf issues.

The Deaf Service at St Andrew’s also supports Deaf patients on other wards within the charity, providing expertise in working with Deaf people and communication support. This ensures that the treatment provided is adapted to meet the individual deaf person’s needs.

The new ‘Guidance for commissioners of primary care mental health services for Deaf people’ has been produced nationally under the Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health by experts from many organisations including St Andrew’s Healthcare. The aim of this guidance is to improve the quality and accessibility of primary care mental health services for Deaf people and St Andrew’s is proud to have been part of this important work.