EDP: Mental health trust blasted for ‘shocking’ fresh rise in out of area placements

Jessica Frank-Keyes of the Eastern Daily Press reports:

The region’s mental health trust has been criticised for a “shocking” lack of beds as data revealed a fresh rise in patients being sent out of the area for treatment.

Figures published by the region’s mental health trust – branded the worst in England – uncovered yet another rise in patients being sent out of the county for care.

Adult OAP patients spent a total of 869 days in “inappropriate” out of area beds in March 2020.

It is an almost four-fold rise since January this year, which was the only time the trust hit its target for these out of area placements since the start of 2019.

It comes just months ahead of the government’s 2021 deadline for stopping all out of area mental health placements, and follows a litany of broken promises from the trust to cease the practice.

Campaigners have repeatedly highlighted the tragic impact of on patients, including the shock death of 81-year-old Peggy Copeman, who died on the M11 after being sent to Somerset.

And some patients have been kept in police cells for longer periods due to a lack of beds.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services said: “The lack of beds at NSFT remains shocking, more than six years since they promised the practice of shipping people in crisis across the country would stop and less than a year from the deadline from NHS England for this practice to stop.”

We were promised by NSFT and commissioners in January 2014 that inhumane and dangerous out of area placements would stop by April 2014. Six years later, people in crisis are being transported in larger numbers than would have been imaginable at the time NSFT directors and NHS commissioner made their promise.

It comes after the trust was criticised for discussing a report into its staff culture, described as “an environment characterised by bullying”, during a private meeting which should have been open to the public.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Peter Passingham said: “Staff know only too well about the serious cultural issues around bullying in the trust. We have been raising this for many years but despite good intentions there seems to have been little meaningful change for staff bearing the brunt of this culture.”

Front line clinical staff tell us the culture and bullying at NSFT is worse than ever since the appointment of former Professor Warren and Marie Gabriel as Chief Executive and Chair. They NHS Staff Survey confirms what we are told.

This isn’t surprising as the dynamic duo allowed many of those responsible for destroying staff morale and running NSFT into the ground to be re-employed or promoted during the disastrous radical restructure.

Pledges to end the out of area beds scandal have been made – and broken – repeatedly in the past.

Health bosses pledged to stop sending patients out of area in January 2014 within four months.

But the goal was not achieved and the trust set itself a new target of ending the practice by October 2017.

That aim was later adjusted to the “more realistic” date of March 2018 – and missed again.

READ MORE: Mental health patients in ‘acute distress’ STILL sent miles away five years after pledge to end practice

Now national targets have demanded all services cease all out of area placements by 2021

The NSFT Board and management trousers more and more money from NHS coffers but nobody is responsible for repeated failures.

However, in the latest round of figures, published in the trust’s board papers, NSFT excluded 16 private beds at Southern Hills private clinic in Mundesley from its data – which would have added a further 480 bed days to its total.

Daryl Chapman, director of finance, stated in his report to the board: “Being local and within county, Southern Hills enables patients from Norfolk and Waveney to maintain contact with care teams and families.

“These beds are not considered as inappropriate out of area due to the close county links and the ability to maintain connection with care teams and families.”

Quite simply, NSFT is fiddling the figures.

Southern Hills, on the site of the repeatedly inadequate Mundseley Hospital, is remote and incredibly difficult to get to by public transport, even from Norwich, never mind King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Ipswich, Hadleigh or Bury St Edmunds.

A ‘matron’ manager visiting a £500+ per night private hospital on a couple of days per week does not make it a proper NHS hospital or less remote.

It was inappropriate before and it is inappropriate now.

Mr Chapman’s report also stated that the trust was almost 600 days above its target for inappropriate OAP out of area beds in March 2020.

“No one factor has stood out to explain the increase seen since January,” he said.

“However, increased length of inpatient stays on NSFT inpatient wards linked to increased delayed transfers of care and higher acuity in the community were contributing factors.”

When out of area bed numbers were forced down before the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection, the NSFT Board and senior management tried to take all the credit.

When out of area bed numbers went back up again after the CQC had left, NSFT is back to its old habits of lame excuses and fiddling the numbers.

The campaign spokesperson said: “Until now, NSFT has always counted beds it commissions at private hospital Southern Hills as inappropriate out of area beds.

“Now it has decided they are not.”

They added: “It is this type of attempt to manipulate information to mislead the public, excluded from the most recent public board meeting, which continues to erode trust in NSFT.

“We and front line clinicians remain deeply concerned that admissions are delayed or prevented because of management pressure to keep out of area bed numbers down and that people are being discharged extremely unwell.”

The trust were contacted for a response to the campaign’s concerns but did not issue any further statement.

We can tell how seriously the NSFT Board is taking the beds crisis when a Class A drug user, convicted of the criminal offence of driving with more than twice the legal limit of cocaine derivative Benzoylecgonine in her bloodstream, has been placed in charge of the Bed Management Team at Hellesdon Hospital this month, whilst still banned from driving having been arrested on duty.

Her colleagues are disgusted and believe the promotion is nepotism.

Same old NSFT.

No wonder the Board were so keen to keep the press and public out of the supposedly public board meeting last week.

High quality local journalism and campaigning by the EDP has been incredibly important to our campaign for decent mental health services and costs money.

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