‘There’s no such thing as a typical day in A&E’
Karl Mason is the senior social worker in King’s College Hospital Emergency Department. His role is to support people who need extra help after they've been discharged from A&E.
More than medical care
‘The best part of my job is listening to people’s stories,’ says Karl. ‘It’s a real privilege to hear about their lives.’
As viewers of 24 Hours in A&E will know, every patient has a story. But many of the stories Karl hears are too sensitive to be told on screen. These are patients who need something else besides medical care. It’s the job of Karl and his colleagues to help them find support beyond the Emergency Department exit.
‘There’s no such thing as a typical day in A&E,’ Karl says. ‘But I’ll normally start my day by going around the various clinical areas, asking the nurses and doctors if they’ve got any referrals they’d like me to see. Sometimes there’s one person referred – on other days there might be 10.
‘I meet with patients who have some social needs identified by the nurse or doctor, and try to make the systems work well together so that the person can get home in a safe, kindly way.
'I’ll read a patient’s notes, talk to them and get an idea what the possibilities might be for them when they are discharged. Then I might make enquiries with other agencies, such as social services, dementia nurses, GPs and the voluntary sector.’
Supporting those in crisis
Anyone could need Karl’s help – from a child who is being abused to a pensioner who can no longer cope with living alone.
‘People come to A&E for all sorts of reasons, but mostly in a crisis,’ he says.
‘Sometimes an older person hasn’t been coping with their mobility, or is struggling with cooking or having a wash. Perhaps they have cognitive impairments and aren’t remembering to take their medication. Domestic violence and homelessness are other big categories.’
‘Having a social worker in the Emergency Department adds real value to the hospital,’ says Karl. ‘Once people are given support, they’re less likely to need to come back to A&E again and again. The right intervention at the right time can make a huge difference.
‘For example, a woman who has been experiencing domestic abuse may come to A&E to make sure her eye is OK,’ says Karl.
‘While she’s there, she talks to the social worker. Now that woman knows that there is help available. That can help break the cycle of abuse. You can really see the difference when there’s a social worker on call.’
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