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EDP: We’re at a turning point, says Norfolk and Suffolk mental health chief

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David Powles of the Eastern Daily Press reports:

Michael Scott, Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust chief executive, pledged at yesterday’s AGM it had learned from its mistakes and promised that high quality, safe services would become ‘the norm not the exception’.

However, his promises have been met with apprehension from mental health campaigners, who say they are ‘dubious’ improvements have been made in the service provided to thousands of patients every year.

Outlining the annual report, Mr Scott, said: “Our Board has described the end of 2014/15 as our ‘turning point’. “This will be the point from where we demonstrate that we learn from our mistakes and ensure they are not repeated.”

The trust ended the year with a £3.7m financial deficit, against a target of being £1.9m in surplus.

Some £24.8m of its £216m budget went on temporary pay, 15pc of its pay bill and £8m higher than the previous year.

The serious deterioration in NSFT’s financial performance is deeply concerning: it means the trust is battling financial and quality failings simultaneously. We strongly believe the delivery of high quality care must be the priority. Sadly this report confirms the veracity of our warnings about the cost, both in terms of quality and the bottom line, of closing too many beds and making too many highly-trained and experienced staff redundant.

It would be wonderful if Michael Scott’s claim that the trust has reached a turning point was true. However, the evidence to us seems to be the opposite, with wards continuing to close, fewer doctors and nurses, the number of deaths of service users (including suicide) increasing, hundreds of people in need unallocated, children left without consultant psychiatrists in Suffolk, people in crisis transported across the country, deteriorating finances and £36m of cuts to come.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk, said: “When we compare the rhetoric with reality, the unsettling conclusion is that this remains an underfunded and poorly-managed trust in denial.”

The annual report confirmed that in 2014/15 serious incidents rose to 228 from 172 the year before, of which 139 were unexpected deaths.

At least NSFT has finally started to ask for more money:

The report said it was ‘vital’ more income was provided for mental health services, adding: “These services are already overstretched and dealing with increasing numbers of patients and expecting more and more savings to be made is not realistic.”

Waiting list problems

Hundreds of vulnerable mental health patients have not been assigned care workers – but trust bosses insist measures are under way to reduce the long-running problem.

The 2014/15 annual report reveals that in March 2015 more than 800 cases remained unallocated in Norfolk and Waveney alone, including nearly 200 children and young people.

Latest figures show that in the Norwich area alone 370 cases were unallocated, with 70pc of service users having to wait 56 days or more to be seen.

Out of area bill rises

A lack of beds and increased demand meant a four-fold increase in the trust’s bill for sending people out of the area in 2014/15.

When a bed on a ward is not available for people who need it in Norfolk and Suffolk, they are sent elsewhere in the country, with the trust footing the bill.

The annual cost for out of area placements rose from £0.8m to £3.3m last year and the trust’s report says this was ‘due to the increasing demands placed on services…and rising community caseloads, which was over and above the availability of beds and staffing capacity for which no additional funding was received’.

Click on the image below to read David Powles’ story in full on the EDP website:

EDP We’re at a turning point, says Norfolk and Suffolk mental health chief

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