Beds not Tea: Cuts Café Consultation: Last chance to respond

The bureaucrats who commission NHS mental health services in Norfolk have decided to run their consultation into the proposed cuts café over the Christmas and New Year holiday period, thus ensuring as few people as possible respond.

Commissioners tried to do a back-door deal to give a ‘pilot’ cuts café contract to Norfolk Mind without a proper consultation and procurement process. We and voluntary sector providers objected to this unprofessional back-door dealing and forced commissioners to at least pretend to seek stakeholder views and value for public money.

The £58,000 so-called ‘independent beds review’ which recommended the cuts café was nothing of the sort: it was a fixed, flawed farce, part-funded by the commissioning CCGs and instructed to be cost neutral despite the share of the Norfolk NHS budget received by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) falling by 8.3 per cent since the CCG bureaucracies were created in 2013/14. If its share of the Norfolk NHS budget had remained the same, NSFT’s budget would be £123.9m rather than £113.6m. More than £10m has been removed from mental health service budgets as the CCG bureaucrats have lined their own pockets and referrals to NSFT have increased by 48 per cent. Is it any wonder that mental health services have been failed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) TWICE?

We have written before about how we need enough beds and staff to deliver decent mental health services rather than more cuts and cups of tea. Instead, it is proposed to waste £1.5m million over two years on a cuts café. This money could be spent on improving community mental health services which prevent crises and beds which are needed when all else fails but are unavailable or substandard. But commissioners want a shiny new initiative and building to distract attention away from the appalling underfunding of mental health services highlighted by the CQC.

It is disgusting that money can be wasted on a ‘flagship’ cuts café when mental health crisis services are again being downgraded, with access to assessment at home being essentially withdrawn. We have heard quite inappropriate and dangerous examples of carers being told to drive people in severe crisis to Hellesdon Hospital after the crisis team has refused to undertake assessments at home. This is the opposite of the claimed objective of help ‘earlier and closer to home’.

We already know that this process is another sham consultation, as service users have told us that they were approached but as soon as the bureaucrats discovered that they disagreed with the cuts café, they and their views were disregarded and went unrecorded. This is the opposite of co-production and a genuine consultation process.

All we can do is register our disgust. You can take part in the consultation by clicking on the image below. Just don’t expect the bureaucrats to listen.

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