Mental health trust Chief Executive Antek Lejk sends email to staff and seeks to meet MPs

Antek Lejk, the disastrous appointment as Chief Executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has written an email to all staff.

I am writing to bring you up-to-date with the progress we have been making since our CQC inspection results were published, with particular focus on the work which has taken place over the past few days.

As we said at the NSFT Board meeting after Antek Lejk’s decidedly lacklustre presentation, we don’t understand why all this ‘work’ had to wait until after the publication of the report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Trusts are given feedback immediately after a CQC inspection and this was the case for NSFT in September 2018. Antek Lejk and the NSFT Board also received the draft CQC report nearly a month before publication but they only seem to have developed any sense of urgency after the CQC’s dreadful findings were made public.

And the Board hasn’t implemented many of the urgent improvements from previous CQC inspection reports either, some going back to 2014.

On Monday (10 December), our Executive Team was invited to London for a Board-to-Board with NHS Improvement, our regulator. The meeting gave us a valuable opportunity to introduce the new members of our Executive Team and explain the roles they are playing in our improvement programme..

Board-to-Board meetings with the regulator are so routine, aren’t they?

NHS Improvement should just be happy that Antek Lejk didn’t go on holiday or call in sick that day. It was a Monday, after all.

Antek Lejk isn’t new. He has been Chief Executive of NSFT for eight months and before that was the Chief Officer of the lead commissioner of mental health in Norfolk and Waveney and was Chief Officer of the Norfolk STP. Antek Lejk is not new to this crisis.

So far, the Board has not implemented an ‘improvement programme’ as services, according to the CQC, have become worse, not better.

Antek also fails to mention this week’s other awful performance and oversight meetings with regulators.

I then gave a presentation on the challenges we face and the urgent and rapid actions we are taking to address the immediate concerns raised by the CQC, which include improving our waiting times and the response we provide to service users facing crisis.

We hope this wasn’t the same lacklustre presentation, full of buzzwords but bereft of data, examples, dates, actions or specifics, that Lejk gave at the NSFT Board meeting.

What a shame that, as commissioner, Antek Lejk did so little about supervising or funding mental health properly which would have enabled CQC’s concerns to have been met years ago.

Antek Lejk’s interest in mental health only seems to have been stimulated after sight of the potential £175,000 p.a. salary.

We all felt the meeting was helpful in explaining our situation and gave us a chance to acknowledge the serious situation we are in because of the CQC report. We are now waiting for feedback from NHSI about next steps, and will update you soon as we hear from them.

So, they ‘acknowledge the serious situation we are in’.

Maybe that is a belated start, but not much of one.

Antek Lejk claims he will update staff ‘soon as we hear from them’ [sic].

But he has heard from NHS Improvement.

Last week, NSFT held its interview panels for its new Chair of the trust.  The cost will have been tens of thousands of pounds of public money. Some of you might have been involved – although most of you in only a tokenistic fashion.

Earlier this week, NHS Improvement vetoed the appointment of the new Chair who it acknowledged was competent. NSFT selected its own Chair but NHS Improvement will appoint its own new interim but indefinite Chair.

NHS Improvement doesn’t know who the new better NSFT Chair will be yet. So, it appears, any Chair chosen by NHS Improvement is better than one chosen by NSFT.

But Antek Lejk didn’t think that staff, patients and carers needed to know that. Even though many of them gave up their time to interview the candidates.

I am sure you will have seen the intense media interest in the future of our Trust over the past few days. In response to this, I am arranging to meet with MPs to provide assurance about the work which is taking place to drive our action plan and update them on the progress we have made so far.

This again implies that the problem is media and presentation.

Antek Lejk told the service users and carer appointment panel that many of the complaints about NSFT are ‘vexatious’ and that he would take mental health campaigners and the media ‘head on’. Service users and carers found Antek Lejk unappointable and offensive.

Antek Lejk’s complacency and faith in spin explains in part why the trust finds itself in the state it is in. It also explains the expensive appointment of Rebecca Driver to the Board as Director of Corporate Affairs and Communications in addition to its existing expensive Head of Communications and Marketing, Lisa Mungham-Gray. The cost of employing these two spin doctors means that a quarter of a million pounds will have to be cut from the budget for front line mental health services every year.

Yet, despite all the money wasted on spin doctors and his desire to provide assurance, Antek Lejk refused to be interviewed by either BBC Radio 4’s Today programme or BBC national television news when the CQC report was published. The expensive NSFT Communications team refuses to communicate.

There is always money for spin doctors but never for front line services. Especially while Lejk was commissioner. But for what purpose?

The meeting with MPs couldn’t be anything to do with our recently-announced trip to London to meet MPs on Monday 17th December, could it?

This includes the creation of our Trust Management Board, which is designed to give our clinicians much more input into the decisions we make so that we can ensure our services are clinically-led. The Board held its first meeting recently, and will continue to meet on a monthly basis to give clinicians and managers the chance to discuss all of the key issues we face.

Isn’t it strange that a meeting to enable rapid decision-making should have sixty or seventy people invited to it? You could hardly park at Hellesdon Hospital that day because of all the managerial cars.

We understand that there were only a handful of staff present who actually see patients regularly. The rest of the forty-plus attendees were the usual meetings fodder. NSFT has between nine and thirteen layers of bureaucracy between the Board and front line staff.

The main agenda item for this dynamic new meeting was ‘What should be on the agenda?’

Clinicians have largely been ignored in the development of the trust’s reaction to the CQC report and genuine co-production is virtually non-existent. How can co-production be genuine when the trust Chief Executive, Antek Lejk, took the £175,000 role knowing that service users and carers found him unappointable? East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT), the outstanding buddy trust which is supposed to help NSFT improve, has made it clear that it would never have appointed a Chief Executive in similar circumstances.

I have said many times that our over-riding focus is on service user safety and everything we do has to be driven by that. There will continue to be discussions about the future delivery model for mental health services, especially as we move towards implementation of the mental health strategies in Norfolk and Waveney and Suffolk. I am determined that our staff are active in shaping those futures, but the absolute focus is on improving services for the people we serve.

Antek Lejk knows that Suffolk is lost and has known since before he even took the job. But he doesn’t say so.

If Antek Lejk’s focus was on safety, he would never have abandoned the trust and staff to go on holiday during the CQC inspection or called in sick on the Monday he was due back from the Mediterranean. If a headteacher at a failed school went on holiday during an Ofsted inspection, it would be failed immediately. No wonder NSFT was rated inadequate for Safety, Leadership and Responsiveness by CQC.

At the Board meeting, Antek Lejk refused to apologise for going on holiday during the CQC inspection. Everybody has a right to a holiday but the people of Norfolk and Suffolk have the right to safe mental health services. Antek Lejk has neither the commitment nor values to drive improvements at NSFT. 

Please be assured that we are committed to transparency and will keep you informed at all stages as we progress this important work.

Apart from the stuff they don’t tell.

We hear rumours that commissioners are deeply concerned about the NSFT Board’s ability to lead improvement. We wholeheartedly agree. But Antek ‘transparency’ Lejk doesn’t say anything about that either.

On behalf of the Executive Team, I would like to thank you all for your continued hard work and dedication to driving through improvements on behalf of everyone in Norfolk and Suffolk.

That’s the only part with which we agree.

Front line staff are lions led by donkeys.

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