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BBC News: Mental health trust’s out-of-area placements hit record levels

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The BBC reports:

A troubled mental health trust is sending record numbers of people far from home for treatment, figures show.

Some Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust patients are being cared for hundreds of miles away because local beds are unavailable.

The number of bed days for out-of-area placements in April 2019 was 1,911, three times the April 2018 total.

The trust has apologised to patients and families, but said it was adding 16 new beds to increase capacity.

When Care Quality Commission (CQC) last inspected Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and rated the mental health trust inadequate, in September 2018, there were 658 out-of-area placement bed days. When NSFT’s latest Chief Operating Officer started in his six-figure role ten months ago, in August 2018, there were 565 out-of-area placement bed days, less than one-third the number in April 2019.

Sixteen new beds (and we’ve heard that commissioners are trying to reduce this to fifteen) are never going to address the scale of the inhumane transportation of people in crisis that is happening at NSFT. Little wonder that the new Chief Executive, Jonathan Warren, referred to bed management as ‘husbandry’ when he was interviewed by Stewart White of BBC Look East last week: people in distress are being treated like farmyard animals.

“This isn’t a situation that we want to continue at all,” said Prof Jonathan Warren, who took over as chief executive in April.

“I think the root cause of the problem is our ability to care for people out of hospital in the way that we want to.”

The beds crisis has been caused by a meltdown in community services, the closure of more than 140 beds by the mental health trust from an already low base and the operational focus of the trust moving from community care and bed management to internal politics and the disastrous ‘radical restructure’.

The meltdown in community teams has been caused by impossible working conditions following continual cuts and a bullying management culture which has been exposed year after year by the NHS Staff Survey and extremely poor staff rentention and recruitment rates.

The crisis teams in Norwich were eighteen down last week due to resignations, staff leaving, sickness and secondments after NSFT’s managers alienated many dedicated front line staff, who have battled to maintain services over the past six impossible years, with what they perceived as a narrow focus on CQC targets rather than safety and welfare. Those managers have now been promoted with substantial pay rises.

Two of the three city adult community teams have been closed to routine work due to lack of staff. Nurses carrying caseloads of 60+ who routinely work until seven o’clock in the evening are being followed around by expensive management consultants to see how they spend their time.

We, and MPs, were promised Special Administration of NSFT in all but name. Instead, the existing management have rearranged the deckchairs and given themselves pay rises as mental health services have gone into meltdown.

Data released under the Freedom of Information Act shows that some patients from Norfolk and Suffolk were sent as far away as Taunton in Somerset (302 miles; 486km) and Darlington in County Durham (219 miles; 352km)

Rolling year-on-year figures show placements have risen by 15% in the past year and 27.5% in the past two years.

April’s placements cost the trust £1.2m and it has warned that if levels do not drop, it will overspend by £5.8m this year.

Campaigners said the 16 new beds due before autumn would not be enough, saying at least 64 were required.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: “This is as a result of a meltdown in community mental health services and a lack of investment [and] closure of mental health beds consistently over the last five or six years.”

Click on the Map of Shame below to read the article in full on the BBC News website:

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