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Trust opens 24/7 assessment unit for patients in crisis during coronavirus outbreak

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust is opening a temporary ‘phone-first’ Crisis Assessment Unit this week to support those in the community who need urgent mental health care during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Crisis Assessment Unit will create a mental health alternative to hospital emergency departments for adults (and children aged 13 and over from 17 April) who have been triaged or rung ahead on a dedicated number.

Based at Maudsley Hospital Outpatients Department in Denmark Hill and the Ladywell Unit in Lewisham, the dedicated Crisis Assessment Unit will ensure anyone in crisis, who does not have serious physical health needs, will be able to receive specialist care from mental health professionals day or night.

David Bradley, Chief Executive at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust said:

“These are unprecedented times and we have to act fast and find solutions to protect our vulnerable patients during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, our staff have worked tirelessly to create two dedicated Crisis Assessment Units for our patients because it means they can access support quicker, be less at risk of being infected, or spreading the virus, and it helps give acute trusts the capacity to deal with general patients.

“We know that many of our service users are currently self-isolating at home and the circumstances we find ourselves in will be adversely impacting their mental health. We cannot underestimate the impact this outbreak will have on our patients and carers. It is our duty to do everything we can to support people with mental illness experiencing a crisis, which is in no doubt going to be exacerbated by concerns around coronavirus.

“We are working hard with our colleagues across the mental health sector to ensure our patients and service users, both inpatients and those receiving treatment in the community, continue to receive the care and support they need at this very challenging time. The NHS is working closer together than ever before and we have the opportunity to save peoples’ lives if we act fast and in partnership.”

This service complements other Trust services for those in the community with mental health needs. Many services have now been adapted to allow safe care to continue amidst social distancing, for example using phone, video conferencing appointments where a face-to-face appointment is not essential. However our dedicated staff are continuing to ensure that those people who need to be seen and supported in person are.

The Trust is also looking at skills of existing staff, including non-clinical colleagues, so we can make the best use of everyone’s skills to support our front line services.

Digital services, training and equipment have been rapidly deployed across both Trusts in order for corporate staff and those self-isolating to work from home in line with Government guidance on self-isolation. This allows continued support to front line services to ensure safe patient care continues. 24/7 advice lines have also been set up for staff to provide support and information about Covid-19 anytime.

Our Crisis Assessment Unit will serve patients across Southwark, Lambeth, Croydon and Lewisham.

Maudsley Charity, which owns the ORTUS Conferencing and Events Venue, based on the Maudsley Hospital site at Denmark Hill, has also given us use of the venue in the event the hospital needs to use this.

To find out more about our services for people in crisis, please visit

Councillor Jane Avis, cabinet member for families, health and social care at Croydon Council said: “This is a much welcome initiative, which will help to ensure that those who are experiencing mental health difficulties get the right support. It is vital that health and social care services adapt to meet their additional needs, especially at this time of unprecedented change in all of our lives.

“This also includes offering online or phone support services, such as Croydon Talking Therapies and the advice on the council’s health and wellbeing website at We are also assessing the needs of people in distress at Croydon University Hospital and we aim to swiftly accommodate those with high levels of mental health need when they are discharged.”


[1] The Crisis Assessment Unit is a phone-first service not a walk-in service. A screening process must take place to ensure any physical health problems do not require urgent medical attention.

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