Mental health trust denied government funding
PUBLISHED: 17:03 05 April 2018 | UPDATED: 18:40 05 April 2018
A bid for more than £5m worth of funding to help solve safety issues at the region's mental health has been rejected by the Department for Health, it can be revealed.
The money would have gone towards fixing issues highlighted by inspectors when they put Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) into special measures in October.
And although some of the work, such as fixing points patients could use to hang themselves, had already been carried out this would now have to come from elsewhere in NSFT’s already squeezed budget.
Latest figures showed NSFT was expected to finish the financial year with a £800,000 deficit.
But councillors at Norfolk County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) heard today (Thursday) how the trust was not set to receive any more money from commissioners either, as instead they were focussing on demand management - this can mean finding different types of care.
Helen Stratton, chief finance officer of North and South Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), said: “It’s what we’ve had to do in physical health and the reason we’ve had to do that is our budgets don’t balance without a cost-saving programme.”
She said most of the CCGs were in deficit and added: “There is not money in the system.”
Julie Cave, the trust’s interim chief executive, hit out at the government’s decision not to award the £5.2m and the fact the decision took six months.
She said: “This is a big issue for us. We were told we had not got the money because there was not enough, then the secretary of state announced the money for the Suffolk STP. I will let you make your own decisions on that.”
Suffolk and North East Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) - which brings together various bodies - was awarded £87m by health secretary Jeremy Hunt in March.
Some £69m would go towards the merger Colchester and Ipswich hospitals.
In comparison £558,000 was given to Norfolk and Waveney, in the same round of funding, to open a city centre hub for those in mental health crisis.
But the Department of Health and Social Care said this funding came from a separate pot.
Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said this was the result of national decisions being felt locally.
He said: “You can’t continually do more with less and continually trying to rob Peter to pay Paul results in the disgraceful failures in mental healthcare for desperate people in our city.”
Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk added: “I’m bitterly disappointed because it leaves you with the sense that lives lost in mental health institutions are in some way less important than lives lost anywhere else.
“It’s another example of the lack of equality in the treatment of mental health patients than anyone else. It is a sign of the huge financial stress the NHS is under – an organisation that we know has had issues with patient safety.”
Conservative Norwich North MP Chloe Smith was contacted for comment.
Concerns were also raised about services in the community after it emerged this week that 36 NSFT inpatient beds had closed in Norfolk and Suffolk since the autumn.
Some 28 of those were temporary.
Sheila Preston, an NSFT governor whose son died while under the trust’s care in 2016, was invited to ask a question at the meeting.
She said: “The majority of unexpected deaths of service users of NSFT take place in the community. There were 146 unexpected deaths of the trust’s service users from April 2017 to March 2018. This equates to a rise of 66pc from the time the trust was established.
“Whilst this might appear reasonable, this equates to 36 more people who need a bed, left without inpatient care to survive crisis living in the community. What steps are being taken by NSFT to keep people safe and boost care for those who are unable to access inpatient care?”
Mrs Spencer said NSFT was committed to finding a bed for anyone who needed one.
She said: “If we do not have one we would have to try and place that person elsewhere but we would not keep people in the community where it was not safe to do so.”
MPs push for bed funding
A letter signed by eight Norfolk and Suffolk MPs was sent to commissioners urging them to fund 15 more inpatient beds at Hellesdon Hospital.
The letter, signed by Chloe Smith, George Freeman, Keith Simpson, Norman Lamb, Henry Bellingham, Brandon Lewis, Clive Lewis and Therese Coffey came after it was revealed last year that extra beds could be opened on Yare Ward, at the Hellesdon site, if commissioners funded them.
But papers released ahead of HOSC said NSFT had not submitted a business case for the beds and they would not open before 2019.
While discussing the number of beds available, NSFT’s chief operating officer Josie Spencer said there were 11 Norfolk patients currently in Suffolk beds, with another 22 placed outside of the area with private providers.
Labour councillor Emma Corlett said this showed the extra beds were needed. She said: “I find myself frustrated at the CCGs about a business case for more beds, since as far back as April 2014 the issue of people being sent out of the local area has been brought up. It’s unacceptable.”
Is the mental health trust too large?
The mental health trust’s interim chief executive admitted the large area covered by NSFT caused difficulties but said she was not able to answer where Norfolk services would be had they not merged with Suffolk in 2012.
Michael Chenery, the chairman of HOSC, asked the interim trust’s chief executive Julie Cave if the trust was too large. He said: “Where would Norfolk be today if we had not merged with Suffolk?”
Mrs Cave said: “It’s a big area to cover and it’s not about me but even as chief executive and going round and trying to meet staff, that’s really difficult. I think it’s a good question and it is not one I can answer right now and it’s one we need to look at.”
When pushed on whether there were people looking into the issue, Mrs Cave said there were.
It comes after Labour MP for Ipswich, Sandy Martin, said another organisation should run services in Suffolk.
He said: “I would like to see another trust take it over for a couple of years to get it into shape.”