Yesterday, Alistair Campbell told the Eastern Daily Press:
“On the one hand they’re saying services are terrible, and on the other hand they’re saying we don’t want any change. But there’s a bit of a big inconsistency in that. If they’re not happy with the services then at least look at some of the changes that are being made.”
Alistair Campbell made similar comments to the BBC.
Addressing Campbell’s comments in detail:
“On the one hand they’re saying services are terrible…”
It is not us ‘saying that services are terrible’. The inspection teams of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), consisting of experts from across the country, have twice found services at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) are unsafe and inadequate. NSFT was the first mental health trust in the country to be placed into Special Measures by the regulator of NHS trusts, NHS Improvement and is now in the ignominious position of being the only mental health trust in the country to have been placed into Special Measures twice.
People who rely on mental health services have paid a terrible price: unexpected deaths at NSFT were 66 per cent higher in 2017-18 than they were when NSFT was founded. Suicide rates have soared across Norfolk. In Broadland, between 2010-12 and 2013-15, the three year rolling average of the suicide rate released by the Office for National Statistics rose by 164 per cent which is 26 times the national average. In Norwich, the suicide rate increased by 33 per cent which is five times the national average. In Great Yarmouth, the suicide rate increased by 84 per cent which is thirteen times the national average. In North Norfolk, the suicide rate increased by 77 per cent which is twelve times the national average.
NSFT is one of only a handful of trusts to have had its funding cut each and every year for more than five years in a row. Commissioners have failed to address the CQC’s concerns with the resources to put matters right. Since the CCGs were founded in 2013-14, referrals to NSFT have risen by 48 per cent while NSFT’s share of the Norfolk NHS budget has fallen by 8.3 per cent.
“On the other hand they’re saying they don’t want any change.”
We have never said this to Alistair Campbell or anyone else. This is untrue. We have been demanding changes for more than four years.
Since the publication of the open letter which led to the founding of our campaign in 2013, we have published and advocated a clear and reasonable programme of change. However, our programme is focused not on bureaucratic changes but on improving the real life experiences of the people who rely on mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk.
For the sake of clarity, we repeat the six founding aims of our campaign:
- Call a halt to the policy of bed closures and reopen wards wherever possible, until community services can actually show in practice that a number of inpatient beds are not needed.
- Withdraw the proposal to reduce the number of qualified Band 6 staff in the Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment (CRHT) teams. Continue with the proposed policy of boosting the home treatment capacity by employing more support workers. Give priority to providing a sufficient level of medical input to CRHTs so that access to a psychiatrist is readily available in a crisis.
- Restore link workers and carry out an urgent review of the role of Access and Assessment teams, especially in relation to CRHTs.
- Restore Early Intervention In Psychosis (EI) teams in Suffolk, in line with the Department of Health and Schizophrenia Commission recommendations.
- Establish a caseload management system so that care coordinators and lead professionals in community teams do not carry individual responsibility for excessive workloads.
- Carry out an urgent review of the prevention of suicide strategy, which should include a major rethink around the abolition of specialist assertive outreach and homeless persons’ teams.
But there’s a bit of a big inconsistency in that. If they’re not happy with the services then at least look at some of the changes that are being made.”
We were not invited to the STP jamboree, yet we are the largest local mental health campaign in the country, with more than 2,500 followers on Facebook and 1,300 followers on Twitter. Hundreds of supporters have twice marched in Norwich demanding decent mental health services. Yet neither the health commissioners nor the STP have ever made any attempt to engage with us.
How are we supposed to ‘look at some of the changes being made’ when the STP itself has admitted being ‘secretive’ and refused to release their plans even to elected councillors and MPs? When asked for minutes of the STP’s meetings, campaigners have been told that ‘as the STP doesn’t really exist, it doesn’t keep minutes’. So, how do we know what the STP is doing? When asked why the STP isn’t consulting the public about service changes when there is a statutory obligation to do so, campaigners are told that the changes are merely bureaucratic and that substantial changes to health services are not being made. So, what are we supposed to look at? We do not seek bureaucratic change: we seek real improvements on the front line with decent funding which will allow staff to do their jobs properly.
Frankly, who is ‘happy with the services’ other than the bureaucrats whose salaries have soared as mental health services have been savagely cut to the point of failure?
While Alistair Campbell is right to talk about his own mental health, he has no personal experience of mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk and has no right to put words into the mouths of the services users, carers and mental health staff here.