star wardsSocial justice project Star Wards has helped to produce a new guide for acute general hospital staff to support them in caring for patients who are in emotional crisis on top of their physical health needs.

Brief Encounters is aimed at improving care for patients who are emotionally vulnerable, already experiencing a mental illness or have a learning disability and find the hospital experience distressing and traumatic.

Co-author and mental health specialist nurse Dr Joy Bray said: "Staff on general wards are fantastic and enjoy working with their patients. However, sometimes it is emotionally very difficult if your patient is distressed and you're not sure how to respond. Brief Encounters is designed to increase your confidence and recognise that often how you want to respond is the right thing to do."

Further reading: New professional development scheme for healthcare assistants working in mental health wards launched

The guide, produced in collaboration with Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, suggests that ward environments are very busy and staff invariably face competing pressures meaning interactions with patients are often swift.

Staff are encouraged to adopt communication with people using a technique called intensive interaction. This involves taking the lead from the other person and building on the communication methods, style, pace etc they use. These interactions can make a positive difference to patients, or at least bring a level of comfort, empowerment and reassurance.

To download the guide for free visit