Social workers given bikes for home visits during Olympics

Raft of contingency measures put in place to tackle disruption during the Games

Mental health social workers in London’s Olympic boroughs will be given bikes to cycle to community assessments during the Games.

With widespread disruption to the city’s public transport system expected, two mental health trusts in East London are purchasing a fleet of bicycles for staff to use when visiting service users.

East London NHS Foundation Trust and North East London NHS Foundation Trust provide mental health services in Hackney, Newham, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, Barking and Dagenham – five of the six Olympic host boroughs.

East London NHS Foundation Trust has bought 16 bicycles, while North East London NHS Foundation Trust is in the process of purchasing bikes for staff to use during the Games. The bikes will be optional for social workers to use but helmets will not be provided due to them being deemend “not a necessary accessory for cycling” and concerns over hygiene if helmets are shared, East London NHS Foundation Trust said.

The scheme is part of a raft of contingency measures put in place by mental health trusts and local authorities across London in a bid to minimise disruption to mental health social work services during the Olympics. Four million extra people are expected to descend on London for the Games, which start on July 27.

Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, which covers the Olympic host borough of Greenwich, is drafting in extra sessional approved mental health professionals (AMHPs) to be “on call” during the Games. Base-locations for AMHPs in the borough are being altered in order to cut down on the distances staff have to travel to service users.

AMHPs in Greenwich will also be permitted to take taxis to Mental Health Act assessments “if necessary”, an Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said.

Jo Cleary, executive director of adults’ and community services at Lambeth council, told Community Care she would be putting additional AMHPs on rotas during the Games to “cope with the potential rise in demand.”

“We have a joint emergency duty team with our colleagues in children’s services. During the day extra cover will be OK but up until about 11 or 12 at night we’ll put additional AMHPs on,” she said.

“Every borough has taken this really seriously. We are taking every precaution with it, particularly among AMHPs and the emergency discharge team. It is unpredictable. We don’t quite know what we will be managing.”

Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust said it would also be adding extra AMHPs to its rotas during the Olympics. “We will be grouping visits together in geographical locations to minimise travel as a component of this,” a spokeswoman said.

Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust is introducing “a combined rota system” for AMHPs across the five London boroughs where it provides mental health services.

Transport congestion during the Games is not the only issue that threatens to disrupt social workers’ ability to carry out Mental Health Act assessments.

Police and ambulance resources are expected to be stretched during the Games. But an East London NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson said it had been assured “that the police will fulfil their obligations with regards to Mental Health Act Assessments and that failure to do so will be addressed at a higher level.”

is Community Care’s community editor.

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