A GROUP who offer support to repeat patients involved in violence at a city hospital has resumed their service as lockdown restrictions ease.

The Navigators, known by their pink T-shirts, are operating out of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) every weekend again. The service was previously suspended at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The group is able once again to help repeat emergency departments patients involved in violence get the support they need to help escape often chaotic lifestyles.

Paul McGlaughlin, 23, is one of hundreds of people supported by the project who has turned his life around.

He first encountered the project during a long stay in the hospital’s burns unit in 2019, where he was being treated following a drug related seizure in his home.

Addicted to drugs and heavily involved in dealing, Paul regularly attended emergency departments with related injuries but it was only after being referred onto Navigator by clinical director for emergency medicine, Dr Alan Whitelaw that he was able to get the support he needed to recover from drug addiction, and gain employment for the first time.

Paul was initially introduced to QEUH Navigator, Thomas Hobbs, who mentored him and connected him with Street and Arrow, which offered him employment in the dental hospital canteen, a social enterprise run by the Violence Reduction Unit where he worked for more than a year.

The experience helped build his confidence and ground him in employment before he was eventually offered an apprenticeship as an electrician.

Paul credits his turnaround to the intervention at the hospital, and in the 12 months since, he has not had to visit again. He no longer takes drugs and is an active member of the recovery community, helping support others and giving talks to young people to turn them away from violence.

Paul said: “The Navigator programme has truly changed my life. I would be in prison or dead if it hadn’t been for the help of Alan and Thomas at the QEUH. Thomas helped me speak to the right people, gave me a phone to keep in contact, and eventually helped me secure a job with Street and Arrow.”

Thomas has been a Navigator for three years and supported hundreds of people at the hospital.

He said: “The one-team approach at the QEUH is crucial in helping ensure patients get the whole range of services made available to them. Working closely with the emergency departments staff we’re able to identify people to help, and while hospital staff provide immediate treatment, we can continue engaging with patients to help point them in the right direction in life, and ensure they are supported along the way. It’s fantastic to get back into the hospital and to begin helping people.”

On an average evening at the QEUH, Thomas can provide interventions for upwards of three to four people – adding up to hundreds in total over the time he’s been present at the hospital.

The work being done by Thomas and the wider Navigator team led by Tam Begbie team plays a crucial role in preventing recurring violence by individuals, which inevitably lands them back in Emergency Departments, putting additional pressure on health services.

Dr Christine Goodall, Lead Clinician for Oral Surgery at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Dental Hospital and co-founder of Medics against Violence, which runs the Navigator project along with the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit said: “Paul’s story is not unique. We regularly see the same individuals in our Emergency Departments suffering from violence related injuries. These individuals are often not engaged with mainstream services so the emergency departments has served as a valuable first point of contact at a time they might be more amenable to accepting support. The Navigators have done fantastic work in collaboration with emergency departments staff in helping turn people’s lives around and are a huge asset to the QEUH.”