Unison: Approved mental health practioners (AMHPs) call for urgent action on beds and ballot for industrial action at NSFT

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As we predicted earlier this week, frustrated AMHPs at Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) have called in the union.

Unison today announced:

Norfolk based Approved mental health practitioners (AMHPs) employed by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust TODAY met to discuss the ongoing bed crisis.

The meeting, called by UNISON, heard from AMHPs about the daily problem of undertaking mental health act assessments with no bed availability, the impact on service users of being transported hundreds of miles to the nearest bed and the staff stress of an unmanageable workload.

AMHPs voted unanimously to write to the NSFT Board with a set of suggested immediate actions to take to ameliorate the current situation and invite them to set a timetable for meaningful negotiations.  UNISON members also voted unanimously to start the process of holding a ballot for industrial action over this issue, due to the serious safety concerns and consequential intolerable working conditions.

Emma Corlett, UNISON media spokesperson, said:

“Staff spoke passionately about the daily reality of trying to do their job with insufficient resources, and the emotional impact of having to tell service users and their families that they are going to be admitted to a hospital hundreds of miles from home.  This situation has persisted for far too long, and has now worsened to a critical stage.

AMHPs have suggested some constructive solutions, which we hope that NSFT managers will implement.  It is about time those who are on the frontline day in day out are listened to, as they have the experience to know what works and more importantly what doesn’t. Industrial action is always an absolute last resort, but AMHPs did not want to rule it out in the event that the situation does not improve quickly”

  • Approved mental health practitioners are mental health practitioners (usually mental health nurses or social workers) who are additionally trained to be able to undertake assessments under the mental health act, and arrange admission and convey to hospital anyone detained under the mental health act, commonly referred to as “being sectioned”
  • Approved mental health practitioners have been raising concerns about a lack of mental health beds in Norfolk since 2012
  • AMHPs have held a series of meetings with managers throughout 2012. At that time a bed management team and alternatives to hospital admission were created to resolve the situation, however this had little positive impact
  • In January 2013 Approved mental health practitioners wrote to the Care Quality Commission, NHS Commissioners and Norman Lamb (MP and Care Minister) to raise serious concerns about the impact on patient safety and quality of care due to the bed shortage
  • Concerns continued to be escalated to management throughout 2013 and 2014 yet failure to act has seen the crisis deepen
  • NSFT was in excess of £2 million pounds over budget on out of area beds in 2013/4
  • Transporting patients hundreds of miles is financially costly, as it is usually in a private ambulance. As an example a recent transfer to a bed in London cost £1000
  • There is a personal cost to patients and their families of being placed so far from home, which increases isolation at a time that support is most needed
  • NSFT staff are being sent all over the country to arrange transfers back to Norfolk, again at huge expense

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