John Lister is a respected journalist, academic and director of Health Emergency. In his monthly column in the Morning Star, John looks at on the Meltdown in mental health services and focuses on Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) in particular. It is an excellent article, even if you wouldn’t normally read the Morning Star:
“Budgets for mental health in the NHS are not simply frozen, like budgets for physical health needs, but – for the first time in a decade – they are actually falling year by year as health bosses inflict cuts where they feel the media will not pay heed.
The government response has been to stop compiling the figures that have revealed the cuts.”
“Back in 2010, mental health charity Rethink published a report that showed many of the 1.5 million people suffering from severe mental health problems such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorder and severe depression were not receiving appropriate treatment.”
“One area facing especially severe problems is Norfolk and Suffolk, where the mental health trust is simultaneously cutting back on both beds and community mental health provision, while dispatching dozens of patients to beds many miles from their homes and families.
Protesters who marched 52 miles from Ipswich to Norwich last month to highlight these savage cuts showed clearly the injustice and the problems they cause.
“If someone had a stroke in Norfolk or Suffolk and had to be taken to Darlington, Somerset, Bradford, Manchester, Harrogate or Glasgow, MPs would be falling over themselves to call for urgent action. But this is the reality for people in Suffolk and Norfolk experiencing a psychiatric emergency.”
These words are from one of the march leaders, Emma Corlett, a Norfolk councillor and Unison steward, who has been campaigning to stop the cutbacks.
In response the trust chief executive, interviewed by the BBC, desperately tried to deny that there was any crisis – before admitting that his trust, like many other mental health trusts, is facing a squeeze on funding and a shortage of beds.”
“For clinical commissioning groups and NHS England, the bottom line is short-term, often illusory cash savings, while quality takes a back seat.
This means the mental health trusts, with their superior skill mix, their staff training and their multidisciplinary teams, are facing deficits and loss of contracts, while cheap and cheerless services from less qualified providers win the day – and tens of thousands of patients lack the care they need.
In East Anglia, and recently in the west of Greater Manchester, there have now been small but important recent protests as a fight develops to defend mental health.
These protests need to be echoed loud and clear by any politicians claiming to stand up for the NHS this year or next.
It’s not fine words we need from weasel politicians, but hard cash and commitment.”
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