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New community alcohol detox service launches at Daisy Hill Hospital

Last year there were 1,522 attendances to Craigavon and Daisy Hill emergency departments and 1,186 inpatient admissions with alcohol-related issues

Mental Health nurses Jackie Leer and Gemma McAuley with Emma Campbell, the first patient to use the new community alcohol detox service from Daisy Hill Hospital

A new community service is now available to support patients attending Daisy Hill Hospital with alcohol dependence.

Mental Health nurses Jackie Leer and Gemma McAuley are working closely with the Emergency Department and inpatient wards, aiming to help more patients to receive the right treatment, in the right place, at the right time and improving their chances of longer term recovery.

Last year there were 1,522 attendances to Craigavon and Daisy Hill emergency departments and 1,186 inpatient admissions with alcohol-related issues.

Dr Ruth Carville, Consultant Psychiatrist with the community addictions team said: “In order to be really successful, abstinence from alcohol requires both medical intervention and psychosocial support.

“Previously, many patients attending hospital will have received medical detoxification but then had to wait for an appointment with the community addictions team following discharge.

“Delays in accessing this support can often regrettably lead to relapse and the need for repeated detoxes, increasing the physical risks from alcohol withdrawal and making longer term recovery more difficult.”

Gemma and Jackie are now working with medical staff from Monday to Friday to identify patients who may benefit from detoxification at home, with their holistic expertise.

Lower risk patients who attend ED may avoid admission with a prompt referral to the team whilst some inpatients may be suitable for earlier discharge, with the nurses continuing observations at home.

Family support is central and an educational group is offered as part of the treatment programme.

A drop-in clinic is available each Monday for patients who attend hospital over the weekend, to support with gradual reduction of alcohol use.

The service also has access to the medical team for prescribing supplementary therapies if needed to assist with longer term abstinence from alcohol.

Dr Carville continued: “By intervening at a much earlier point to address the psychological and social factors causing the alcohol dependence in addition to the physical symptoms, we aim to motivate and support patients to maintain abstinence.

“For suitable patients, detoxing in their own home surroundings supported by loved ones is a much more ideal environment than a hospital ward. It also frees up hospital beds for other patients with acute medical issues.

“We hope that this approach encourages patients to better engage with community addictions colleagues following detox, reducing their chances of relapse and improving their overall health, wellbeing and quality of life.”

31-year-old Emma Campbell from Newry was the team’s first patient in September. Emma says that Jackie and Gemma’s support has been priceless and she wouldn’t have got this far without their help.

She commented: “I voluntarily went to ED when I decided I really needed help. I literally woke up the next morning and Gemma and Jackie were at my bedside. What a dynamic duo, kind, caring, compassionate, knowledgeable and most of all, totally non-judgemental. They have been crucial in supporting not just me, but my partner, through my recovery.

“They have educated me and taught me the dangers of detoxing by yourself. Following detox, their support has been ongoing. They’ve helped me to recognise and taught me strategies to prevent and cope with triggers, they’ve signposted me to community support and even helped me prepare for a holiday, which I really enjoyed and can remember so well.

Added Emma: “They continue to keep me motivated and I also really enjoy the support from other patients at our weekly classes.  I realise this is a new service, but my goodness what a difference it will make to people, to have so much support once discharged from hospital.

“They also took a lot of pressure off my partner who was having to keep an eye on me all of the time. They have taught me so much, I can now understand my addiction much better.”

Future plans for the team involve extending the service to Craigavon Area Hospital and taking referrals from GPs and the Community Addiction Team.

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