EDP: Campaigners ask where mental health nurses will come from under new GP surgery plan

Geraldine Scott of the Eastern Daily Press reports:

Concerns have been raised over where mental health nurses to be placed in doctors’ surgeries are going to come from amid a shortage in the profession.

A £500,000 review into Norfolk and Waveney’s health system identified that 127 mental health staff would be needed to work in GP surgeries and take the strain off doctors.

But campaigners raised worries that this would take staff from the inadequate Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), which has 118 staff in the same pay grade, and 200 nursing vacancies.

Why has a firm of US management consultants with links to private health care been paid £500,000 to produce completely unrealistic plans?

While health bosses said this was not the case and staff would “co-locate”.

Whatever ‘co-locate’ means. Strange the way the Norfolk and Waveney STP’s own document talks about ‘redeployment of staff from other areas e.g. NSFT’.

A Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk spokesman said: “One of the founding demands of our campaign was the restoration of link workers, predominantly nurses, in GPs surgeries. So we should be pleased.

“But we have always been clear that any restoration of link workers should be in addition to, not instead of, current secondary mental health services, as was the case before the disastrous radical redesign. Anybody with knowledge of secondary care mental health services knows that mental health nurses are almost impossible to recruit but are a key component.”

We’ll be providing a full analysis of the Norfolk and Waveney STP’s secret and totally unrealistic plans soon.

However Julie Cave, the interim chief operating officer of the county’s sustainability and transformation partnership, said: “We are pleased to confirm there is no intention whatsoever for staff to leave NSFT and work in primary care to the detriment to the trust or the care it provides. We want to develop services to be co-located with community and GP practice staff in local areas, all working together to support patients and service users in a holistic and joined up way.”

Where have we heard that name before?

That sounds fine apart from the fact that the mental health nurses don’t exist to fill the posts; that the Norfolk and Waveney STP’s own documents talk about transferring staff from secondary to primary care to do mental health work which currently makes up ten per cent of the overall work of GPs and to reduce the Norfolk and Waveney STP’s £95 million deficit.

This change could be incredibly damaging to both the continuity and quality of care.

Mrs Cave said there were a number of schemes to try and fix the recruitment gap, but did not make clear how the STP specifically planned to fill the 127 roles in doctors’ surgeries. She said: “This emphasis on integrated working in local communities is what service users and members of the public asked for in our recent adult mental health strategy.”

Sadly, this is the same deceit as used during the disastrous ‘radical redesign’ cuts. Get a few, carefully-selected people to agree with fine sounding aspirations, then use a vaguely-worded strategy to cut services to the people most in need of support who often cost the most to support.

From where are the 127 new nurses going to appear and who is going to pay for them?

Yes, people want ‘integrated working’, but that doesn’t mean decimating community mental health teams and destroying continuity of care to allow GP’s to do less mental health work – paid for with the resources of secondary mental health services. As consultant psychiatrist Nuwan Dissanayaka recently wrote in The Guardian, those with the most severe mental health have paid a disproportionately high price already.

We have been campaigning for the restoration of mental health link workers for over five years. But not at the expense of community mental health teams and the budget of the mental health trust.

But the campaign spokesman said: “The impact on the quality and continuity of secondary mental health care would be devastating. All to reduce the mental health work of GPs to enable a larger proportion of their time treating physical health.”

As we said earlier, we’ll have more on this soon.

Click on the image below to read the article in full on the EDP website:

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