Mental health campaign reaches almost 1,000 supporters

Ian Gibson speaks in the crowded room at the Vauxhall Centre as the campaign to save mental health services is launched. Picture: Denise Bradley Ian Gibson speaks in the crowded room at the Vauxhall Centre as the campaign to save mental health services is launched. Picture: Denise Bradley

Thursday, December 5, 2013
6:30 AM

A campaign to stop mental health cuts in Norfolk and Suffolk has reached almost 1,000 supporters - a week after it was launched.

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Organisers spoke of their delight after hundreds of workers, patients, carers and members of the public attended the first meeting of the Campaign to Defend Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk last Monday and hundreds of people have already joined an online page, which was set up at the weekend.

Officials from the campaign, which is calling on Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) to put a stop to cuts in bed numbers and staffing, have pledged to hold further meetings across the two counties in the coming months to build momentum.

More than 60 people attended an organising meeting in Norwich on Monday night and officials have pledged to turn their attentions on local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) and MPs to call on more NHS funding for mental health services.

The NHS trust is planning to cut £40m from its budget and reduce the number of inpatient beds by 20pc by 2016, despite concerns that services are struggling to cope with demand.

Emma Corlett, Unison spokesperson for the NSFT branch and mental health nurse, said they were “overwhelmed” at the interest in the campaign.

“It has been massive - we have had almost 1,000 likes on our Facebook page and 13,000 views of that page. We were hopeful of 100 people at our first meeting. Our hunch was that people were concerned, but we underestimated it and it was a really good mixture of staff, people using services, family members and members of the public and we talked about the need to campaign together,” she said.

Campaigners from Unison met with North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who is the government’s mental health minister, on Friday to discuss their concerns.

Jeff Keighley, regional organiser for the union, added: “Acute general hospitals are not getting preferential funding but face huge cuts themselves and on top of this the mental health services are just having even more cuts.”

NSFT spent more than £13m on inpatient placements outside of the two counties over the last three years, according to figures revealed last month. The number of patients being sent to institutions outside of the trust went from 77 in 2011/2012 to 117 in 2012/13.

Bosses from the mental health trust said they had received a surge in demand for acute beds. However, they said the number of out-of-area placements only represented a small proportion of admissions.

As previously reported, NSFT received 58 reports of unexpected deaths of mental health patients across Norfolk and Suffolk, between April and October. For the whole of 2011/12, there were 88 unexpected deaths.

For more information about the campaign, visit www.facebook.com/Defendmentalhealthservices, call 01263 825967 or email WSallyL@aol.com.

Have you got a health story? Contact Adam Gretton on 01603 772419 or email adam.gretton@archant.co.uk

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