Geraldine Scott of the Eastern Daily Press reports:
“Tell them you are suicidal and they do nothing”.
This is one of the shocking comments made by people in desperate need about Norfolk’s mental health crisis care.
They are revealed today in a damning report by Healthwatch Norfolk, which spoke to 680 crisis care users – and concluded services were “consistently unsatisfactory”.
The report said: “The views and experiences of patients, service users, carers and families of their experiences of mental health services provided by the NSFT are at best mixed and at worst poor, unresponsive and unsafe.”
No wonder the NSFT Chief Executive, Michael ‘Payrise’ Scott, appears to have his head in his hands in the EDP’s photograph.
It found “a consistently unsatisfactory picture of mental health service provision – in particular at times of mental health crisis – in our county”.
Interviews and surveys found there was genuine sympathy for front-line mental health professionals who were felt to be doing the best they could.
As we’ve said many times, the vast majority of front line staff do their best in impossible circumstances (sometimes at the cost of their own mental health): it is the TSSers, CCG bureaucrats, NHS England and NSFT’s Board of Shame, executives and governors who should take the blame for the continuing crisis in mental health services.
However, the group concluded mental health crisis services were “under-resourced and over-stretched and this issue required urgent attention”.
The piece of work did not set out to look at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) – the region’s mental health trust – but many interviewees spoke about these services.
However, in Norfolk three themes which caused issues for people in crisis emerged.
Some patients complained about long waiting times – one said they waited for 20 months to get a consultation at Chatterton House, in King’s Lynn.
Another reported an eight-month wait to be seen at Hellesdon Hospital.
Others felt left alone at their greatest time of need, with one service user saying: “There is no help. I have made detailed plans for suicide. I have no help, no family, nothing. I have been left to sink or swim. It is like there is no NHS at all.”
Another person added: “They have failed so many, I wouldn’t have believed the stories if I had not experienced them.”
A minority of consultant psychiatrists are seeing half-a-dozen or less patients per week in clinic, as New Ways of Working is used as an excuse for New Ways of Shirking. We’ve raised the ‘productivity’ issue many times with NSFT but the Board of Shame doesn’t seem to care whether its doctors see patients or not.
The amount of money available for mental health services was an issue particularly raised by family members and carers, who felt funding cuts put services under pressure which led to a lack of staff, longer waiting times and the ability to deal with only the worst of emergencies.
One said: “I feel NSFT are under a lot of pressure and this shows through the care they are able to provide, this is not to the fault of each individual but as a whole organisation. Because of cut backs, NSFT are not able to provide the quality support to each individual they care for, but instead have to prioritise their time to those who have already reached crisis point instead of preventing and supporting those who are reaching crisis point.”
Another said: “Statutory crisis provision currently suffers from a lack of adequate funding and preventative reach, meaning safety suffers.
Where to go
Another issue highlighted by service users was that they did not know where to go when they were in crisis. Dr Deborah Holman from West Norfolk Mind told Healthwatch: “At crisis point, when individuals are very ill and vulnerable, our interviewees felt that the onus is on them to search for the care they need.”
And there were mixed messages about whether service users should go to A&E or not when in need.
The report concluded: “It is quite clear that whilst people and services can come together to provide a person with the right care at the right time, many people’s experiences of trying to getting help and support are unsatisfactory and at times, uncaring, unwelcoming, unsafe and ineffective.”
We have been calling for an easy-to-navigate guide to mental health services booklet and website section since our campaign was founded more than three years ago. Instead, NSFT spends thousands on vain, glossy, expensive self-published spin and a website that didn’t work until we pointed out that it didn’t.
Most NHS trusts produce a newsletter: NSFT produces a one-hundred-page-plus, full-colour Kay’s Catalogue of spin. The NSFT Comms budget was increased dramatically as front line services were slashed. Unexpected deaths have more than doubled.
There is, however, praise in the Healthwatch report for the work of some GPs.
We are not going to repeat the misleading spin and excuses of the NSFT Chief Executive, Michael ‘Payrise’ Scott, here. You can read them by visiting the EDP website.
If you can’t face reading Michael ‘Payrise’ Scott’s bluster, the Chief Executive of NSFT’s comments to the EDP could be summarised as:
“Blah, blah, welcome feedback, blah, blah, increasing demand, blah, blah, cuts café with no doctors, blah, blah, pretend FACT and still no City base is an adequate replacement for axed crisis and assertive outreach teams and staff, blah, blah, CPA is important but we have too few staff to do it properly, blah, blah, single-point-of-contact, blah, blah, new perinatal service which isn’t open for business yet, blah, blah, new unit in King’s Lynn but don’t mention closing of Fermoy Unit and that the new unit is being built housed in wards closed during the ‘radical redesign’, blah, blah, don’t mention my massive salary, blah, blah, blah.”
It will be interesting to see whether the Care Quality Commission (CQC) shares the concerns of patients, carers and Healthwatch.
Well done, Healthwatch!
Click on the image below to read Geraldine Scott’s report on the EDP website: