Jessica Frank-Keyes, Local Democracy reporter of the Eastern Daily Press, writes:
Paperwork errors at Norfolk’s mental health trust have risen by more than a third in the past year, it has emerged.
The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has seen mistakes in sectioning – involuntary hospitalisation – paperwork increase by 36pc in the past twelve months.
Errors in the trust’s completion of Mental Health Act paperwork rose from 30 in 2018-19 to 41 in 2019-20, which campaigners have branded “profoundly concerning”.
It comes as the trust, dubbed England’s worst, was criticised for a “shocking” lack of beds as data revealed a fresh rise in patients being sent out of the area for treatment.
Among the errors, recorded in board papers published ahead of the trust’s May directors’ meeting, was the unintentional expiration of a Section 37 order – a court-ordered mental health patient admission to a secure ward.
A mental health campaign spokesperson branded the incident “alarming” and an “unforgivable mistake”.
They said: “Courts do not make hospital orders lightly and the individuals concerned are often a danger to both themselves and others.”
All three Medical Directors of toxic trust NSFT have been white, male forensic consultants, including the current disastrously-inexperienced imposition, Dan Dalton. NSFT desperately needs an external leader with extensive experience of medical management, not a professional buzzword bingo player who likes to spend his time on bureaucratic NHS England committees or CCG Boards and who will feel beholden to the NSFT executives for his astonishing increase in salary and seniority.
There was both an external female and an internal BAME candidate for the renamed Medical Director job. Of course, this being NSFT, a more experienced and qualified woman or person of colour was never going to get the Chief Medical Officer job.
While the rest of NSFT has been starved of funds, forensic services has been penalised for having occupancy rates that are too low, millions was spent recently refurbishing the underused and loss-making wards, the LSU routinely refuses admissions even when it has beds and patients are being sent out of area and forensic consultants do private legal work in NHS time or spend their time on non-clinical activities, such as singing the praises of the disastrous Lorenzo implementation. Yet still forensic services cannot do the basics like ensuring a hospital order is renewed.
While in 2019-20, mistakes included original forms being lost, dates missing on forms, and a patient being admitted to the wrong hospital.
In one incident, a patient’s wrong nearest relative was identified, which was challenged by the patient’s solicitor.
A spokesperson for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: “Mental health paperwork isn’t simply optional form-filling, it is the statutory process for compulsory medical treatment and the deprivation of individual liberty.
“We find the 36pc increase in errors is of profound concern.”
They added: “The dramatically-increasing number of errors reflects the strain that mental health services are under, after years of mismanagement and inadequate funding.
“The tripling in the number of times that the receiving hospital is named incorrectly on the section papers is a damning reflection of the lack of available local beds and the forced transportation of people in mental health crisis to other parts of the country.”
Dr Dan Dalton, NSFT chief medical officer, said: “We are absolutely committed to protecting the rights of all of the people who use our services.
“We undertake detailed scrutiny of all of the legal forms and paperwork that we receive, when people are admitted to our hospitals. These forms are completed before people come into our services, by people who are not working for NSFT.
This is utterly misleading and mealy-mouthed. Many of the errors were due to either NSFT staff or the delays that NSFT intentionally creates.
“We are proud that we have been able to detect and correct errors in the papers we receive, as they are an important safeguard to ensure people are treated fairly and safely.”
And he added that the trust could not scrutinise paperwork when patients were admitted to other hospitals, meaning that it did not see the paperwork for patients receiving treatment from mental health trusts elsewhere in the country.
Again, more misleading spin as many of the mistakes were caused or made by NSFT and it didn’t spot them.
How is a 36 per cent increase in errors ‘improvement’?
NSFT should have the capacity to care for local people locally. It shouldn’t be transporting people across the country or subjecting people to long waits for urgent treatment. It shouldn’t be detaining people under the Mental Health Act illegally.
NSFT’s toxic executives and Board cannot be trusted.
Click on the image below to read Jessica Frank-Keyes’ article in full on the EDP website: