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Opinion: Mental health trust inspection report was clearly unacceptable

PUBLISHED: 17:06 20 October 2017 | UPDATED: 17:06 20 October 2017

Hellesdon Hospital. Photo: NSFT

Hellesdon Hospital. Photo: NSFT

NSFT

Working in mental health cannot be easy. There is no denying that.

But the failures at the region’s mental health trust were shocking even to someone like me who spends a lot of time reporting on the NHS.

Funding is scarce, demand is rising, pressures are high.

But there is no excuse for some of the things reported by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). There is no excuse that concerns raised three years ago - issues which could threaten a person’s safety or their life - had not been dealt with in that time.

The shining light in the CQC report was the trust’s staff. Inspectors say they were caring, and performed incredibly under extremely difficult circumstances.

There is no doubt those on the frontline do the best they can for the often-vulnerable people in their care. But those at the top did not listen. They did not work quick enough to fix the organisational problems the trust has, as admitted by the new chief executive Julie Cave.

It is not just the CQC who have said this either - those working in various parts of the county’s NHS have told me of problems, concerns, issues they encounter when working with the trust.

Healthwatch Norfolk found the trust “uncaring, unwelcoming, unsafe and ineffective”.

So it is extremely frustrating when the retort to the reporting of this is the coverage is “too negative” - besides the staff’s hard work, it has been difficult to find a positive within all the mess.

Now there is a question over how many in the senior leadership of the trust should be stepping aside. Former CEO Michael Scott announced his retirement before the report was even out - which did not bode well. Now two more board members have taken their leave. There are still executive directors on the board who oversaw the controversial radical redesign which arguably got Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) into this situation in the first place.

It is a fair point that at this crucial time the trust must not be thrown into disarray by a swathe of mass resignations. But when the dust settles, when strong foundations have hopefully been put in place, it may well be time for those left to move on and let new blood build a mental health trust which can truly keep patients safe.

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