Gary Page, NSFT Chair, emailed all NSFT staff on 10th January 2014:
As the first working week of the New Year ends, I wanted to share with you my reflections on last year and hopes for 2014. I know 2013 was difficult for many staff and the Trust overall. Implementation of the Service Strategy created uncertainty for staff, service users and carers. We have been under external scrutiny in a way that we have never been before from the media, commissioners, regulators and the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services. Despite this, we never lost the focus of putting patients at the centre of everything we do and still achieved the provision of essential services that our service users and carers depend on.
While the reasons why we needed to make service changes are generally accepted; what I want to be very clear on is the Board’s commitment to ensure we provide safe and effective mental health and learning disability services to those vulnerable people in Norfolk and Suffolk who need them.
However, I fully acknowledge we have made some mistakes in the implementation of the Service Strategy. This is not the time for the Board to be defensive; we must, and will, address and listen to legitimate concerns raised by those inside and outside of the Trust.
We acknowledge that a key part of the service strategy we didn’t always get right was in relation to workforce planning. We are listening to staff and are working hard to ensure that we have the appropriate number and levels of people in place. Where this means revisiting the numbers of staff, including administrative staff, we will look again. We have also been too slow to fill vacancies, increasing pressure on those staff we have in post. We are accelerating the recruitment process across the Trust, including consultant and other clinical posts.
You will be aware the financial position for all public sector services remains challenging for the foreseeable future. I ask all of you to work with us with a common purpose focussed on providing the best possible services we can for the people we serve. Be critical if we get it wrong but then help us find a solution and ensure we focus on the facts and not get distracted by rumour and inaccurate information.
The coming year will bring new service developments, a single electronic patient record and a review of how we operate in order to remove bureaucracy so front line staff spend time delivering care. We will have a new CEO, new ways of working underpinned by the commitment of the Board to support safe and effective services. We have the skills, we have the people; we now need to deliver on our potential.
While I acknowledge the changes we have made need more time to produce the results we aspire to, and despite the difficulties we have faced, let’s not forget the incredible amount of high quality care which we are providing day in day out. Before Christmas I spent the day visiting Service Users in Suffolk with one of our Community Teams and this week I visited Yare Ward in Hellesdon – I saw first-hand the difficulties which our staff are facing but I also heard from service users how much they appreciate the quality of the care they receive. I am enormously proud of the dedication and commitment you show in often difficult circumstances.
I wish us all a successful, productive and happy New Year.