Sandra manages Look Ahead’s Independent Living Medication Support Service (ILMSS) in Lambeth. This service is commissioned by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and works with the NHS to help people with mental health needs to stay well, out of hospital and living in the community.
I first joined Look Ahead as a mental health support worker in Hackney. Twelve years later, I am proud to know I am playing an important role in such an innovative service providing both medication and independent living support.
Individuals are typically referred to our service from the Community Mental Health Team as they leave hospital, and we step in to help them learn how to manage their own medication. Most customers will have got used to having a nurse support them with medication, especially if they have been in hospital for an extended period of time.
It takes a person time to re-adjust after being discharged, so our team step in to offer support usually for a 12-week period. Our staff provide much needed consistency and familiarity. We train people to administer their own medication and understand any side effects. As we see them on a daily basis, we are well-placed to monitor their progress.
As a customer progresses, we can very gradually reduce the support to enable them to continue to gain independence. We may visit less or stay in touch on the phone. Without this support, it’s likely that a customer could forget to take their medication, relapse, and then end up back in hospital again. But the support we offer means that people have a much greater chance of staying well in the community and avoiding the ‘revolving door’ of hospital admission. It’s better for them – and the NHS.
Earlier this year, over the course of an eight-month period, we successfully discharged 39 customers from our service, with no further readmissions to hospital. The floating support side is also crucial. This provides more general support around access to benefits, development of life skills and managing appointments. All of these things help people gain and sustain independence for when we step away.
Partnerships with health like these improve the quality of services across the board as well as helping the NHS with its greatest challenges. It helps make sure that those most in need of support don’t fall through the cracks.