‘Sarah’ tell us her experiences:
I have worked for the NHS for over 30 years and have been a union health and safety representative for almost as long. My role is to try to ensure that Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) is a safe and secure place for everyone who works and receives treatment within it .
Over the years there have been peaks in concerns in different areas but nothing as bad as the present situation where multiple areas of NSFT have significant problems related to low staffing and poor working environments.
I am saddened that so many of my colleagues are unable to work at the moment due to stress and mental illness (oh, the irony) brought about by their jobs. Many others of us are receiving either counselling or medication to help us cope with the challenge of providing a safe service in impossibly dangerous circumstances. Other colleagues are off work with significant physical injuries, many that occurred due to short staffing / working alongside staff without sufficient experience in specialist areas.
Other reps and I have campaigned for an easier way for staff to report concerns such as low staffing. There is a huge discrepancy between what occurs and what is reported – the NSFT Board and outside bodies with the powers to bring about improvement only see the figures that are reported. It has been demonstrated (by cross-referencing actual logs of unsafe staffing with number of requests for bank or agency staff due to short-staffing) that less than three per cent of staffing issues in a forensic ward had actually been reported. This is by no means the only area that is having problems, but hopefully gives an insight in to what many services are up against, day in, day out.
Norman Lamb (‘Care’ Minister) keeps banging on about parity of esteem for mental health services. Well, we are miles away. People deserve and should expect better. It’s a disgrace.