Healthwatch Suffolk comments on the announcement of the closure of the Suffolk PICU by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT):
Healthwatch Suffolk note with serious concern the news that the Lark Ward, a psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) run by Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) at Woodlands, will close from Friday 6th April 2018.
Workforce pressures the Trust continues to face have been well documented. That said, our experience of the Trust’s approach to communicating and engaging with service users and carers, and local agencies that represent them, remains a very real concern for us. We understand the reasons for the closure, which relate to safe staffing levels, after all patient safety must be an absolute priority. That said, our focus is on the experience of patients and their families and the implications are that this decision may seriously compromise patient recovery.
It is not just us as Healthwatch that needed to know this significant service change was a possibility. Organisations well connected with service users and carers including Suffolk User Forum, Suffolk Parent Carer Network and anyone else with a legitimate interest and concern needed to know. They are in a position to offer valuable support and advice to people that have been a patient on the Lark Ward and that may be worried about the consequences of this news.
As we have stated before, there needs to be much more recognition that communication and patient/carer feedback is a mechanism for driving genuine and lasting improvements to care and re-building Trust with local communities. The Trust, commissioners and the wider system including NHS Improvement and others must make radical change for the benefit of service users and staff.
Healthwatch Suffolk must be really angry to comment in these strong terms. They are right to be.
The various Healthwatches were set up as part of Andrew Lansley’s disastrous Health and Social Care Act (2012) which also established the CCGs, NHS England, etc.
Healthwatches don’t generally rock the boat and many, such as Healthwatch Norfolk, appear to see their primary role as acting as PR agencies for the NHS bureaucrats or ‘system’ as they call it. That’s not surprising as Healthwatches, although claiming to be independent charities, receive nearly all their funding from Jeremy Hunt at the Department of Health & Social Care, with the money distributed via County Councils. Healthwatch Norfolk, for instance, operates from plush offices and has a budget of hundreds of thousands of pounds per year.
Of course, Healthwatch Norfolk, the most sycophantic ‘consumer champion’ ever, has nothing to say about the closure of a further 36 mental health beds across Norfolk and Suffolk.
But let’s praise Healthwatch Suffolk for telling the truth in the interests of service users and carers.
We have been saying for over four years that there is totally inadequate service user and carer engagement at NSFT.
The rotten culture at NSFT is demonstrated by the disastrous appointments of NSFT’s new Chief Executive, Antek Lejk, and the current Head of Recovery, Participation & Partnership, both of whom were rejected by the NSFT service user and carer appointment panels at their respective interviews. The importance of service users and carers to these key individuals is demonstrated by the fact that the rare and vociferous opposition of NSFT’s own service users and carers was not enough for either to decline their appointments and the pay rises that went with them. In fact, the Head of Recovery, Participation & Partnership, also a Governor of NSFT, voted against the views of his own service users and carers to approve the appointment of Antek Lejk. Which just goes to show how wise service users and carers were to reject the Head of Recovery, Participation & Partnership in the first place.
Astonishing and indefensible.
Click on the image below to read the statement on the Healthwatch Suffolk website: