Extra psychiatrists to tackle mental health emergencies
More psychiatrists are being taken on to treat patients with mental health problems turning up at Leicester Royal Infirmary's accident and emergency department.
The move has been welcomed by patients, who have often faced long waits to see a psychiatrist in A&E.
At the moment, psychiatrists are on duty in the department from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday only.
Five new psychiatrists will be taken on to extend the service until midnight on weekdays and from 9am to midnight at weekends.
To fund the changes, Leicestershire Partnership Trust has been given £356,000 by primary care trusts NHS Leicester City and NHS Leicestershire County and Rutland.
Its is hoped the service will be up and running as soon as the doctors have been recruited.
Dr Chris Meakin, a consultant in psychiatry with the trust, said: "The recruitment of additional full time qualified mental health practitioners will offer patients more dedicated mental health expertise.
"As a result, patients will experience shorter waiting times for psychiatric support in the emergency department."
He said that seeing a specialist sooner would help patients' recovery and sometimes prevent the need for admission altogether.
One patient, who suffers from schizophrenia and asked not to be named, said the changes should make a big difference.
He said: "A&E is not the environment you want to be waiting in for four hours when you are having a psychotic episode and it's not the sort of the thing the doctors want to be dealing with.
"I have been told that if I start feeling unwell when my GP surgery is closed I should go to A & E, but when you get there the doctors say it is a mental health issue.
"They will call the crisis resolution team but that can be another three or four hours before they get there.
"By that time your stress levels are going through the roof and I know that I get worse when I have to wait. There have been times when it has got so bad that I have had to be admitted to hospital.
"The sooner you can speak to a psychiatrist the better.
"Having more doctors in A & E must be a good thing, although I would like to see it extended to a 24/7 service."
The funding for the jobs is for one year. However, managers at the partnership trust anticipate that, by treating more patients more quickly, the new service will secure its own future by generating efficiency savings.