Emily Townsend reports:
Patients in mental health crisis are still waiting more than four hours to be seen in an emergency – with the longest delays going beyond an entire day.
More than one in four ’emergency referrals’ in Suffolk and Norfolk (26%), were not assessed within four hours in September, according to the trust.
Some patients – particularly in west Norfolk, north Norfolk and Norwich – were not seen for 12 hours, with 25 referrals not assessed within a 24-hour period. The target is to see 95% of all patients in four hours, but in September, the NSFT saw just 74%.
The trust, rated ‘inadequate’ three times in a row by the Care Quality Commission, was criticised by the watchdog last November for its failure to hit waiting time targets, with inspectors warning rising numbers of people were struggling to access the service.
Chief operating officer Stuart Richardson said: “Disappointingly, we are not making the improvements that people want us to make in this area. People are coming into our services increasingly rapidly.”
At last, the person directly responsible for the meltdown in mental health services is being made to take some responsibility for the catastrophe he has created.
Given Stuart Richardson’s track record and that of his scandalous appointment as deputy, we have no expectation of genuine improvement.
The toxic cronyism of the mental health trust’s management culture needs to be eliminated.
Emergency referrals assessed within four hours were better last year (averaging around 92%-93%), before the CQC inspected, but this year performance has decreased significantly – dipping to the lowest figure of 71% in March.
Performance issues were reported in services for Suffolk’s young people.
None of the seven children looked after by Suffolk’s autism disorder service were seen within 13 weeks of referral as of the end of September, a situation non-executive director Ken Applegate described as being “quite stark”.
Young people have been let down for far too long.
And less than one in three under-19s with an eating disorder (30%) received urgent treatment within a week, this was down 25%.
Too many people have died for too long for this still to be continuing.
Campaigners raised concerns about the trust’s performance, particularly when it came to patients in crisis.
“The performance indicators at the mental health trust are a sea of red and downward arrows,” said a spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk.
“In many critical areas, such as emergency assessments, performance has markedly deteriorated rather than improved since the most recent ‘inadequate’ CQC inspection.
“We are at a loss to understand how the mental health trust’s continuing deterioration can be tolerated when in January of this year NSFT was told it had just weeks to improve and it clearly has not.
They added: “Insufficient resources are part of the explanation.”
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