Youth workers have been embedded in a children’s hospital emergency department for the first time in Scotland to try to reduce repeat admissions.
The specialist staff work alongside clinicians to help teenagers tackle the causes of violence, self-harm and substance abuse.
Sixteen-year-old Amy was one of the young people to speak to the youth workers.
She was violently assaulted by her boyfriend after a night out and suffered serious head injuries.
“He was drunk and he had a bottle in his hand and he began to hit me in the head, nose and face,” Amy says.
She went to hospital for a scan and at that’s where she met workers from the charity 6VT, who are running the scheme.
Amy, not her real name, says they helped her get away from that relationship and reset her life, not only in the days and weeks after the attack, but before and after the case went to court.
”Knowing it wasn’t just me who’d been through that it’s helped me gain my confidence again because when it happened I had no confidence at all,” Amy says.
The specialist youth workers are embedded in the emergency department of Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Children and Young People on Friday and Saturday nights.
They liaise with clinicians to offer emotional and practical help to teenagers presenting with everything from drink and drug abuse to self-harm.
One of the emergency youth workers, Natalie Paris, says: ”They don’t see you as a professional when you come in, in a hoodie they see you as an average Joe.
“They feel comfortable opening up even when you don’t know them and they want to talk, whether they’re upset or a bit drunk whatever, the fact they come to you, it’s a total privilege to know you’re the person they come to in that time of need.”
“They come in for all sorts of different reasons, some it can be assault, mental health issues, some accidents, so we spend some time and see what they need.”
Clinicians are expert at mending broken bones, and treating other injuries and illnesses, but they don’t have time to help teenagers tackle underlying problems which may bring them back to the emergency department repeatedly.
Paediatric emergency medicine consultant Dr Jen Browning says ”We realised there were lots of young people coming to us frequently and we were trying to see if we could break that cycle and prevent them coming back to us again and again.
“The idea being if we can get them when they are most vulnerable in the emergency department, at a time when they will hopefully be open to seeking help, then hopefully that will then break the cycle and change behaviour so they don’t come back and become frequent attenders to us.”
Dr Browning says there is sometimes a “barrier” between healthcare workers and patients and the youth workers help break it down.
“They know how to speak to the parents and they educate the parents on how to speak to the young person and discuss how to break that cycle of substance misuse,” she says.
Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity raised £116,000 to fund three years of this emergency youth work.