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Dementia beds and staffing in Norfolk and Suffolk cut by almost a third ahead of looming increase in cases

PUBLISHED: 11:36 29 May 2014

Former Waveney MP, Bob Blizzard speaking at a rally to sending a message to the government and the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust to think again on proposals for cuts to local mental health care services. 

Picture: James Bass

Former Waveney MP, Bob Blizzard speaking at a rally to sending a message to the government and the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust to think again on proposals for cuts to local mental health care services. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

Mental health bosses have warned that Norfolk and Suffolk does not have the capacity to cope with a looming increase in dementia cases after beds and staffing numbers were cut by almost a third.

Changing dementia care in Norfolk and Suffolk

There are five Dementia Intensive Support Teams (DIST) across Norfolk and Suffolk, which aim to support people living with dementia in the community and ensure that they receive the help they need to remain at home wherever possible.

The first was set up in the Norwich area four years ago with the others being established over the last year as part of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s radical redesign of mental health services.

The west Norfolk team, which was established last August, consists of 12 mental health practitioners, an occupational therapist and two psychiatrists, all based at Chatterton House in King’s Lynn.

Around 85pc of the patients the team sees have dementia, while the remaining 15pc suffer from mental illness, such as depression. To meet demand, the service is open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm.

Andrew Lillywhite, team leader of the west Norfolk team, said moving people with dementia out of their homes to unfamiliar surroundings was not always in their best interests.

“We aim, wherever possible, to help people to stay at home because we know how important being in a familiar environment is for their wellbeing. We want to avoid unnecessary admissions to hospital, however, everything depends on the quality of life at home and we have to take into consideration individual circumstances.”

“Once we’ve received a referral from a GP or hospital, we like to visit the patient as soon as possible. We always check the patient’s physical health, as we know that it’s important to eliminate any physical problems first. Following a full assessment, we can offer advice with medication and care and we also act as a signposting service, explaining to carers how they can access further support and help.”

“The establishment of DIST has enabled us to see far more patients than we could before. For us, it’s all about enabling people to reach their full potential while suffering from a limiting illness. Team members can see the bigger picture when they meet the patient with other family members,” he said.

Campaigners have called on Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) to rethink its proposals to close some inpatient wards with warnings that thousands more people will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia over the next 15 years.

Figures revealed under a freedom of information (FoI) request show that the number of dementia beds across the two counties has been reduced from 140 to 96 over the last two years. Officials from the mental health trust said bed numbers had been cut through a service redesign and the creation of new Dementia Intensive Support Teams (DIST) to treat more patients at home.

However, the FoI response revealed that the number of staff working in older people’s services at NSFT has been cut from 528 to 357 over the last year. The number of people with dementia is set to grow from 13,000 to more than 20,000 by 2025. Fourteen “alternative to admission” beds have been set up in Norfolk and Waveney where patients can be taken to a nursing home, rather than being admitted to hospital.

However, when asked if the trust had enough capacity for increased numbers of people living with dementia, Kathy Chapman, director of operations for Norfolk and Waveney, said: “No – additional resource will be required due to very significant future demand.”

She said the trust had to make 20pc savings, which had resulted in fewer staff. However, the trust had the right balance of inpatient beds because not all of them were fully occupied, she added.

She said: “Hospital acute assessment beds for people with dementia remain. Alternatives to admission will always be sought to ensure that people are admitted to hospital only when necessary. Our trust has completed the implementation of DIST across Norfolk and feedback we have received has been positive.”

The changes have resulted in NSFT having no inpatient beds in west Norfolk for people with dementia, with the nearest facilities in Norwich.

Norman Lamb, health minister and North Norfolk MP, said: “It is the right general approach to move away from inpatient beds to provide better support for people at home. The direction they are taking is the right one, but in terms of capacity of services and staff numbers, it has to be sufficient for growing demand. On the face of it, the commissioners in Norfolk and mental health trust need to work together to ensure they are looking towards the future and ensure they have an absolute grip on rising demand.”

Bob Blizzard, prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, who has been campaigning against bed cuts at Carlton Court, near Lowestoft, said: “Closing dementia beds at a time when all the demographics point to an increase in demand makes no sense at all. This is a shameful way to treat older people with dementia.”

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  • This is a disgrace. Of course the Tories want to privatise it, so a tiny few can make big money out of those who are suffering & can afford to pay, & stuff the rest of us. They're quieltly trying to outsource the care of vulnerable children to the likes of Serco, Atos, G4 etc. They're not interested in providing a sufficient service with dignity & safeguards for all. The hogwash they peddle to try & fool us is breathtaking. Labour too need to get their house in order rather than being simply "Tory-lite". Those who died in 2 world wars will be spinning in their graves.

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    Thursday, May 29, 2014

  • I see good old Norman Lamb trotting out the party linelike a robot. Rememeber the good old days when he was just an MP. He and his Tory cronies have cut back so much, readying for privatisation no doubt. No doubt Norm is doing the same after the Lib Dems collapse in the recent elections.

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    Thursday, May 29, 2014

  • If what NSFT says about older people is true, why was the DIST team at the James Paget closed? Why was an elderly wife forced to sleep in a day room while her husband was locked in their bedroom for lack of a bed? Why did the alternative to admission arrangements break down? Why are old people being shipped all over the country? Why is Sandringham ward currently staffed for 10 patients but often has more than 20? Why is NSFT planning to reduce Sandringham ward down to ten patients when it is impossible to do so? At the end of the weekend before last, NSFT said the capacity of Sandringham ward would fall from 20 to 18 but by the end of the weekend it had 21 patients. Why have front line staff been cut while corporate services has grown with a political lobbyist being the latest recruit? Kathy Chapman lives on another planet and has real problems with the actualité.

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    NorfolkSuffolk MentalHealthCrisis

    Thursday, May 29, 2014

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