EDP: New mental health beds to be opened for children and young people

Geraldine Scott of the Eastern Daily Press reports:

New mental health beds for children and young people are set to open in the region after a review found current services were not enough.

At long last!

We’ve been saying this should happen for more than four years. Commissioners, including the newly-imposed CEO of NSFT, Antek Lejk, have consistently denied the lack of beds capacity whilst simultaneously wasting millions of pounds transporting patients to hospitals across the country, even though the regulator the Care Quality Commission has twice found that NSFT does not have enough beds.

Children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are being looked at nationally, while locally a complete overhaul of services is expected in the coming months and years. But a review found that in the meantime, until the shake-up takes place, there was not enough support on offer for those most severely affected by mental ill health A letter sent to MPs Clive Lewis, Sir Henry Bellingham, Keith Simpson, and Sandy Martin – and seen by this newspaper – said “the current service type available within the region does not meet that required to address the level of risk and mental health presentation of the young people in the interim period”.

Over the past four years, commissioners and NHS England have been able to organise their own bumper pay rises but apparently failed to realise until now that Norfolk and Suffolk doesn’t have enough beds for children and young people.

But now £480k will be invested by NHS England to enable Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust (NSFT) to increase its bed numbers at the Dragonfly Unit at Carlton Coleville, Lowestoft from seven to 12, in a phased approach by 1 January 2019.

How much has been wasted transporting young people in need while this fiasco has been dragging on? Brand new NHS capacity has sat unused since being completed at a cost of £1m in 2016. Paul Watson of NHS England needs to explain why this has taken so long.

Norwich South Labour MP Mr Lewis, one of those who wrote to the NHS asking for change, said: “Service users, staff and loved ones have been saying for years we need more mental health beds so it’s good news that at long last someone seems to be listening. But we are going to need more than just stop-gap solutions like this to put things right and that means action from government.”

A huge insult is that one of the bureaucrats who has failed to act has just been imposed as the Chief Executive of NSFT despite being deemed unappointable by the trust’s own service users and carers.

While Keith Simpson, Conservative MP for Broadland, said the news was a sign of cross-party working in the region’s interests. He said: “I think we all recognised the fact there was a shortage, the significance [of mental health] has been highlighted over the last few years and I think all parties have said more must be done.”

Actually, most MPs in Norfolk and Suffolk have consistently said very little about the appalling state of mental health services. Local MPs have consistently put party loyalty above patient safety. All are aware of the scandalous state of mental health services from their constituency casework. How many local MPs demonstrated ‘cross-party working’ when NSFT imposed the largest cuts in the entire country according to NHS benchmarking?

The Dragonfly Unit opened in September 2016, at a cost of £1m. It is the only place providing beds specifically for children in Norfolk and Suffolk. Debbie White, NSFT Operations Director, said: “These funds and extra beds will make a huge difference to young people in Norfolk and Suffolk with complex mental health needs as more young people than ever will be able to access the specialist help and support they need closer to home.”

Except they should have been opened in 2016 when they were built.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk added: “Of course we welcome this news. However, it is amazing that this newly-built and expensive NHS provision remained unused for years as young people were transported miles away to private hospitals across the country. “Now, commissioners need to listen to the CQC and recognise that mental health services, inpatient and in the community, are inadequate and fund them properly.”

An additional five beds in nothing like enough to solve the beds crisis. Even before the impact of the closure of all the psychiatric intensive care beds in Suffolk, there were more than thirty patients out of area in March.

Join us at our protest on 1st May 2018. Click on the image below to read the story in full on the EDP website:

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