Concern over pressure on mental health staff in Norfolk because of high caseloads

Hellesdon Hospital. Hellesdon Hospital.

Adam Gretton Health correspondent adam.gretton@archant.co.uk
Friday, April 25, 2014
6:30 AM

Mental health chiefs have insisted they have a plan to tackle high caseloads after it emerged that almost 400 patients in Norfolk were waiting to be assigned to a community worker.

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Concerns were raised about pressures on staff after officials from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) admitted that some patients were waiting too long to see a mental health worker in central Norfolk.

The NHS trust’s board of directors was yesterday told that higher than predicted demand for adult community services in the Norwich, North Norfolk and South Norfolk areas and low staffing levels had resulted in 379 cases out of 2,579 awaiting to be allocated to a named worker.

The meeting heard that in central Norfolk, demand for services was 140pc more than planned when the trust’s redesign of services was formed and the area had 20pc less staff than originally planned because of a voluntary redundancy programme.

Kathy Chapman, director of operations for Norfolk and Waveney, said there were currently around 40 cases for every qualified member of staff and the average wait for adults to see a community worker was 50 days. However, in Suffolk the mental health case load was around 30 for every member of staff, directors were told.

She added that plans were in place to increase community mental health team staffing in central Norfolk and to speed up the discharge of patients who no longer needed the trust’s services.

Directors were told that the mental health trust had secured an extra £500,000 from Clinical Commissioning Groups in Norfolk to help hire new staff to meet demand. It comes after NSFT officials announced last week that 269 of 412 vacancies would be filled in the next three months.

Stuart Smith, non-executive director, said he was concerned about the emotional consequences of high caseloads on staff and patients.

“There is a great burden of unallocated cases and they are working as hard as possible to support people. I get the feeling that staff are at the end of their tether. Are they seeing light at the end of the tunnel or are they still feeling at the end of their tether?

“I am pleased to see improvement, but 2015 feels like a long way away and that has made me nervous,” he said.

However, Graham Creelman, deputy chairman, said the 379 figure was “painting a picture that is worse than it is” because some of the unallocated cases were waiting for an ADHD appointment, had recently been referred, or were waiting to be transferred to a named worker.

Gary Page, chairman, added: “This is the most stressed part of the service across the entire trust. It is clear there is a plan in place to deal with recruitment and we know there is progress there. We are focusing on people who are ready to be discharged. We should not be lowering the bar for people that are suitable for discharge. People need to feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel and my sense is that I am not getting that feeling with my discussions with staff.”

4 comments

  • As one of the people who managed to escape the compete chaos by opting for voluntary redundancy I am surprised the Trust can claim that demand is higher than expected - utter nonsense! The Trust will claim that we were all 'consulted' about the changes - sure we were, and they didn't listen to a word we said - they were convinced that their plans (drawn up by people who have either never worked on the front line, or hadn't for many a year) would work. We were not allowed to be 'negative', only 'constructive' ideas for doing more with less would be listened to. I found my job as a clinical manager became impossible - staff were so stressed I regularly found myself with colleagues in tears and losing sleep with worry about how the team were going to do the job, and what would happen to their patients. Like other former staff, I do feel guilty at leaving but frankly it was making me ill - I ended up doing the job of 3 people for no extra pay, having been on a pay freeze for 4 years. I was staggered at the scale of the cuts - and now this new investment? I guess this means they realise they made a mistake? Utterly appalling - they have lost large number of us who had a wealth of experience to offer (I had 32 years) - they way they behaved towards us was described by one of my colleagues in a meeting with senior management as 'shabby and cruel' and think he was absolutely right. Heads really need to roll for this appalling incompetence. Why did they offered redundancy in the first place - of the 80 odd who took them up on the offer, we were to a man and woman some of the most experienced people in the Trust - so expensive to make redundant, and the loss of good role models with clinical leadership skills - utter madness! I am now volunteering, and also work in a very junior role on a sessional basis at the N&N. It's good to now be able to work somewhere were I am appreciated and to be able to enjoy my work once again!

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    Nick Bishop

    Friday, April 25, 2014

  • Higher than predicted demand? Haven't clinicians in the Trust been predicting the gap between demand and resources for the past few years?

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    angela

    Friday, April 25, 2014

  • It begs the question "Why does it take so long for the penny to drop?"

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    blackdog2

    Friday, April 25, 2014

  • With the trust now offering training in basic English for staff, I am sure the new foreign staff the trust wants to employ will do an excellent job. Of course had they not been voted the second worse trust to work for in the UK & had they not lost as many staff as they have, they would not have needed to employ people who do not even speak basic English to provide a service their management style destroyed.

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    el84

    Friday, April 25, 2014

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