Mental health trust urged to stop its bed closure programme after an increase of patients being sent outside of Norfolk and Suffolk

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

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
6:31 AM

A mental health trust has been urged to stop its bed closure programme following an increase in the number of patients being sent outside of Norfolk and Suffolk.

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Campaigners have accused Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) of being in a “bed crisis” after a 750pc rise in the number of patients being sent out of the area for treatment.

Officials from the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk has called on the NHS trust to halt its plans to reduce bed numbers by 20pc as part of a overhaul of services and to save money.

New figures show that the number of mental health patients admitted outside of Norfolk and Suffolk in 2012/13 was 51. The number of patients that could not be found beds was seven in the 2010/11 financial year and six during 2011/12.

Managers from the mental health trust will be quizzed by councillors from the Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Thursday over its ongoing redesign of services.

Concerns have also been raised that not all emergency and urgent referrals of mental health patients are being met by NSFT’s new Access and Assessment service.

The representatives from the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk last month called for the trust’s board of directors to take urgent action to address the problems facing the organisation or resign.

A spokesman for the campaign, which has issued a paper on “what has gone wrong with the radical redesign”, said commissioners needed to recognise that the level of bed and community provision in Norfolk and Suffolk was “deeply inadequate.”

“NSFT claims that it has sufficient beds and criticised this campaign for calling the current scenario a crisis. However, the number of transfers of acute adult or psychiatric intensive care patients to third party providers, frequently many miles away from home, is growing at an extraordinary rate for a service with sufficient capacity. There is a high human price as service users find themselves many miles away from their families and friends,” said the spokesman.

The number of patients admitted to mental health units outside Norfolk and Suffolk in the first half of 2013/14 was 33.

A report submitted by officials from NSFT and North Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said the trust and commissioners would be working closely together to improve Access and Assessment performance standards and to “avoid the need to place patients in beds outside of Norfolk.”

“The trust’s acute services plan is part way through implementation and include the introduction of a range of measures aimed at ensuring that admissions only occur when clinically indicated and that stays in hospital are no longer than clinically needed. Though much progress has been made and some positive improvements achieved, there remains much to be done to fully embed the services in a way which will deliver their full benefits,” said the report to scrutiny members.

The chairman of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has admitted that mistakes have been made in the reform of mental health services.

In an email to staff at the NHS trust, Gary Page said 2013 had been a difficult year and pledged to listen to the concerns.

He said: “We acknowledge that a key part of the service strategy we didn’t always get right was in relation to workforce planning. We are listening to staff and are working hard to ensure that we have the appropriate number and levels of people in place. We have also been too slow to fill vacancies, increasing pressure on those staff we have in post. We are accelerating the recruitment process across the trust, including consultant and other clinical posts.

“The coming year will bring new service developments, a single electronic patient record and a review of how we operate in order to remove bureaucracy so front-line staff spend time delivering care. We will have a new CEO, new ways of working underpinned by the commitment of the board to support safe and effective services. We have the skills, we have the people; we now need to deliver on our potential.”

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