Campaign Members Meet with Under-Secretary of State of Mental Health and MPs.

On 12 March 2024, campaign members have been at Portcullis House to meet with MP’s of Norfolk and Suffolk as well as Maria Caulfield, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Mental Health since October 2022, previously serving as Minister of State for Health between July and September 2022.

This meeting was not only to give personal accounts of experiences, but to call for serious action and accountability regarding NSFT. A few campaign members were able to be present remotely as well as MP Chloe Smith.

It was the first time that all of the local MP’s concurrently agreed that enough was enough instead on continuing to give a benefit of the doubt; something that Maria Caulfield gave them after the last CQC meeting in Feb 2023 and mentioned today that ‘it might have been a mistake.’

There were some somber moments of real stories as well as some positive collaborative thinking about solutions moving forward, yet always with some doubt in the air about whether a system that has let so many down, and the ones who have watched it happen, can really be trusted to actually drive the changes needed.

There was an odd feeling in the room contrasting between stories of familial tragedies of suicide and lists of factual failings to Maria Caulfield’s blunt manner asking ‘well what would you have liked to be different?‘. Nevertheless, members of the campaign remained strong and continued to ask questions of clarity and press for changes. After more time, there was more of an opening up from parliamentary members, perhaps confessing to past regrets or acknowledging that the trust may not have been as transparent or as open as it came across. Over time, Maria Caulfield and George Freeman amongst others did emphasise that there was a severe lack of trust within all the local mental health services or accessing help and even if there were changes or plans, people were unlikely to believe it.

-After bereaved families spoke of the failings toward their children, the head of the Campaign, Mark Harrison gave a broader context of the reasoning behind the need for this Portcullis House meeting. He spoke about the Grant Thornton deaths report, the toxic culture, the continuous issues repeating year after year and a priority to protect reputation within the Trust with coverups and lies that have been proved time and again. He also spoke about the Radical Redesign in 2013, which was warned that it would cause deaths and a worsening in services but was implemented regardless. Waiting lists were also spoken about as well as the lack of crisis services, the services that should have had financial assistance from the government to improve.

NSFT has been in close contact with members of Parliament, and the new CEO assured some MP’s that she was more than aware of the Trust’s horror show of a legacy and that she had a grand plan. What the members of parliament were not aware of was that this plan had not even been seen by the trusts own Governors, nor the public, who should have helped contribute to it.

It’s these small but large details that are always carefully omitted to save face and which shatters the transparency once again.

-All present MP’s this time unanimously agreed that enough was enough and that cross-party action needed to happen, it was about trying to figure out what that would look like and how possible the outcomes may be with a looming general election sometime this year.

We spoke about:

  • whether the region of Norfolk and Suffolk was too big and whether resources would even stretch that thinly
  • The need for new management and not just a culture change program, and moving staff around in different roles.
  • The need for an independent public inquiry
  • Bringing the Trust and Dept Health to the Health Select Committee
  • How to keep the trust accountable and whether yet another transformation plan will actually make a difference
  • Getting this issue into the eyes of Victoria Atkins, the Health Secretary of State.
  • Being stronger with the new leadership of the Trust
  • Getting Dept of Health to get to the bottom of data, including death numbers.


However, once accountability was brought to the floor there was suddenly a shift of WELL it won’t be the department of health, it will be the local commissioners, the CQC and NHSE, have you spoken to the CQC? Even though, let us not forget, parallel to the post office scandal, these are public services that are being allowed to fail for ten years in plain sight and supposed scrutiny. We know there is not just one person at fault here but the carousel of ‘its not me its them’ becomes tiresome and leads to nowhere.

The meeting finished with more views, experiences and concerns being expressed not only by campaign members but by MP’s George Freeman and Clive Lewis to try and assure that the pressure needs to remain, to keep in contact and to do this collaboratively as well as expressing the difficulties in logistics, attitudes and procedures that may continue to stand in the way. Where is NHSE as well? Can they attend next time seeing as they are the ones who are supposed to be putting NSFT through their recovery program.

We really hope that 1. This won’t be the only meeting now and it falls off the earth again and 2. That we won’t need to have yet another same meeting in two years time. Some parts were optimistic, some felt all too the same. We aren’t going to give up, and we will do our very best to keep the powers that be from giving up either. There was true strength and pleas in that meeting room today, and some MP’s seemed to really show concerns that this had gone too far, whether that was genuine care and concern or not……we will have to wait and see.

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