03 June 2019

After twenty years of dedicated service, the Tower Hamlets Department of Psychological Medicine (DoPM), Mental Health Liaison Service are losing their much loved and admired Accident & Emergency Department (A&E) Senior Psychiatric Liaison Nurse Elaine Monaghan, as retirement beckons.

Elaine made the move down from her native Liverpool back in the 1980s, and started her training in Goodmayes. She started working for the Trust in 1999, when mental health did not have the high profile it has today. “I had a table and a chair in A&E., in an old dilapidated building.  Staff working in the acute trust did not not always recognise the importance of mental health care and so my role demanded a lot of work in education and training as well as the caring role.

Sometimes people can arrive in A&E experiencing thyroid problems, complications from steroid use or delirium; physical health conditions which can present as mental health conditions. It is crucial that frontline staff can recognise, assess and diagnose physical health conditions before an assessment of mental  health is carried out, and this is a crucial role colleagues like Elaine perform. 

“Now colleagues across all the different health settings realise and value the role mental health practitioners play. Parallel working is now routine, and we work together to diagnose alongside nurses in primary care,” explains Elaine.

There are approximately 35 (DoPM) Service members based at the Royal London Hospital  in Tower Hamlets working on the frontline alongside their primary health colleagues across the inpatient wards and A&E. It is a popular destination, with a waiting list of City University trainee nurses keen to learn at one of the most busy and demanding placements in London where there is a varied learning environment.

“ELFT is a great trust to work for. It is a very supportive organisation  – they encouraged me to go on and study for my MA. The job has definitely got more demanding, and that could be down to wider social changes or people becoming more self-aware in terms of their mental health but initiatives like the Recovery College, the Frequent Attenders programme and the Crisis Line, not to mention non-Trust organisations such as Rework and Mind all work hard to improve people’s lives once the immediate mental health emergency is over.  I can say without a doubt, this is a very rewarding profession.”

Melanie King, the manager of the DoPM and Tower Hamlets Mental Health Crisis Line service said:  "We are all very sad at losing Elaine. She has played a pioneering role here in terms of establishing the important role the Trust plays in Tower Hamlets in providing highly skilled and responsive mental health care in an acute hospital environment. She led where others will follow." 

Photo: Elaine, centre left, with colleagues from  Tower Hamlets DoPM