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Consultant in Emergency Medicine

Deon Louw

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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Deon Louw completed his undergraduate degree in medicine at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa in 2000. His first job in an emergency department was in Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. It was the start of a career that would take many twists and turns. He worked in emergency departments in various parts of South Africa, the UK and Australia, finally returning to his home country. It gave him experience in how Emergency Medicine is practiced in both developing and developed countries. In 2010/11 he dipped into the world of environmental science when he obtained a MSc in Environmental Change and Management at Oxford University, a decision that took him back to the UK. While completing this degree Deon didn't leave his original calling as a medic and continued to work part-time for an organisation he loves - the NHS. He decided to settle with his family in Oxford where he has remained, becoming a full-time consultant in Emergency Medicine. Deon discovered an interest in a particular field of his speciality that has until recent years been largely undervalued - acute mental health care. He also recognised that one particularly vulnerable group required clinicians to think beyond the reactive approach typical to emergency medicine. Patients regularly attending ED were often misunderstood and in many cases did not have their care needs addressed sufficiently. He helped develop the current Oxfordshire ED Frequent Attender Programme and became part of a team that has received local, regional and national recognition. They acknowledged that in the current climate of limited resources the best way to serve this specific patient population was to build close relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, including medical professionals, community services and charitable organisations. It has enabled them to guide patients to access the most suitable care and support. Deon and the team soon realised that they were in a position to make a difference to the lives of patients who for many years may have felt they were not being listened to. Following a regional ED Collaborative event organised by the Academic Health Science Network, Deon reached out to Eileen Dudley and Fran Butler from the AHSN and together they started working on a project to build an acute mental health network in Thames Valley. It resulted in a project that has been shortlisted in the Q-Exchange - see the page The idea to focus on frequent attenders not only builds on the work done in Oxford, but in fact addresses a gap often mentioned in published literature. We simply don't know how patients use various EDs in a region. More importantly, the coordination of care over county borders will not only engage a bigger range of services, but also achieve improved patient safety by ensuring consistency of care. Deon maintains his own mental well-being by remaining active in climate change & health causes and rediscovering the calming influence of the natural environment through the eyes of his two young sons. However, it is every achievement on the long road to improving ED care for patients with mental health problems that inspires him. Being able to involve patients in this process remains a particular ambition which he hopes will become a reality in the regional collaborative. He believes the Q-Community can help shape this vision and invites all members to reach out, comment on the project page, and support a model that has significant learning potential for patients and professionals alike.

Q Exchange ideas

Blog posts

  • The clinician’s guide to QI

    Deon Louw shares an update on one of 2018's successful Q Exchange projects focussed on collaboration between emergency departments to share best practice for frequent attenders requiring mental health care.

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