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Campaigners Slam Bed Plans for Failing Mental Health Trust

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The campaign to save mental health in Norfolk and Suffolk is calling for the resignation of the NSFT CEO Stuart Richardson after he revealed a cut in the number of beds planned for the £45m Hellesdon hospital revamp.  Bed shortages have been a constant sore since the disastrous radical redesign drastically cut the number of beds at NSFT in 2014.

Having looked at this EDP article, https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/health/images-of-hellesdon-hospital-revamp-unveiled-8784054 ,we are asking: How can you invest £45m and still not have enough beds?

These plans will institutionalise the transportation of patients to private hospitals outside the trust – a practice they promised to end in 2014 and again by 2017 but which continues to this day. NSFT have failed to end out of area placements which we believe are a breach of patient’s human rights – we can’t be routinely sending people in severe mental distress hundreds of miles from home and loved ones after investing £45m and not achieving the number of beds needed to meet local need.   

Transporting patients out of area has tragic consequences as the family of Peggy Copeman and others will testify.  They are still traumatised that Peggy died on the hard shoulder of the M11 in a mini-bus that purported to be an ambulance whilst being transported back to Norfolk having been sent 280 miles to Taunton in Somerset because of a bed shortage in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Not having enough beds also has knock on effects for other public services as patients in severe mental distress have to be held longer and inappropriately in police cells, the general hospitals in the region, or left at home with family and carers having to cope.

This vastly expensive project is all talk. They have been talking about building on the Hellesdon site for years now but they do not seem to have even started anything. All we have seen are photo opportunities and media puff pieces about the plans. It is about 3 years since the then CEO (former professor Jonathan Warren) was pictured with Chole Smith, MP, discussing the plans. Their wellington boots looked suspiciously new but they were not seen again. Rather than a building site, the trust’s leadership team have held meeting after meeting to discuss the plans. By now, the project should have been nearing completion.

I addition to the lack of real progress on the Hellesdon new build, £700k has been spent on refurbishing Rollesby ward on the site. The ward has been closed for a year, and the work completed, but as yet no concrete plans to re-open it. At this week’s Board meeting they decided that the Chief Nurse should look into this and report back in July/August. It’s not hard to deduce that £700k was spent without any strategy for running it. Our questions are: If they cannot staff up and open Rollesby ward, how on earth do the intend to open these £45 million new wards … if they ever get built? Where will the staff come from? And who will the beds be for?

It’s looking likely that the new wards at Hellesdon could be the most expensive empty beds ever. We dread to think what has been spent so far on consultants, architects, and people on fat cat salaries who sit in Hellesdon Towers discussing the plans. With the costs of building materials rising sharply there is a risk that even less beds will materialise if they continue to delay.

Meanwhile, the bed shortages result in unnecessary distress for people who are transported hundreds of miles or who cannot get a bed at all. It’s time the trust took action. Urgent action is well overdue. NSFT continues to fail its patients and service users and these plans will see that failure continuing way into the future.  That is why we are calling on Stuart Richardson to resign or be sacked.

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