December 6 2013 Latest news:
Adam Gretton, Health correspondent
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Mental health bosses said they had enough inpatient beds in Norfolk and Suffolk, despite increased demand and some patients having to be placed on wards outside the area.
Officials from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) reiterated that the number of deaths of patients in their care was in line with regional and national averages after recording four unexpected deaths so far in October.
They added that they remained committed to reducing bed numbers by 20pc, despite four patients currently being placed at inpatient beds outside Norfolk and Suffolk.
Roz Brooks, director of nursing at the NHS trust, said the reduction in bed numbers came as the organisation introduced more community care-based teams as they look to reduce their budget by 20pc up until 2016 – which could result in about 400 job losses.
“It is fine to reduce beds if you have got 24/7 community services, and people with dementia have much better outcomes if they are being cared for at home.
“When we put together the original trust strategy, it was before the reduction in adult social services and that will have an impact on some of our service-users. When you go on to the wards, 15 to 25pc of patients could be discharged if there was a good community package of care with supported housing or personal budgets. If we can get that bit right, people will be in beds who need to be in beds,” she said.
An inquest heard this week that 20-year-old Michael Knight hanged himself last year after being told by NSFT that he would have to wait a day before being admitted to an acute unit.
The EDP reported earlier this month that the trust ordered a review after 38 serious incidents were recorded between April and August, of which 20 were unexpected deaths of patients who had been using NSFT services in Norfolk. The review by non-executive director Peter Jefferys will be presented at a public board meeting this week.
However, officials said the deaths were similar to figures for previous years. The four deaths so far in October relate to one inpatient death and three deaths of patients in the community.
The trust said it had 161 serious incidents, 88 of which were unexpected deaths in 2012/13 and officials said the 53 deaths reported in their annual report was an incorrect figure. In 2011/12, there were 203 serious incidents, of which 89 were unexpected deaths.
Ms Brooks added that the majority of deaths were of patients using the trust’s drug and alcohol services.
A serious incident is recorded when a patient died unexpectedly up to six months from discharge. The trust reports all deaths of people under its care before the cause of death is established, she added.
“What we know with our figures is that we sometimes get clusters of incidents. Some months we get very few and some months we get high numbers of deaths. It is hard to make comparisons. Every death is a tragedy and it has a dramatic impact on our staff,” she said.
“We make life difficult for ourselves by over reporting, but ethically I am proud we do that. The moment we get a call about a death we are very proactive and we do not wait for commissioners to phone us up or for a coroner to make a report.”
Care minister and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb last week admitted that the standard of mental health services in England was “unacceptable” and the inbalance between physical and mental health needed to be addressed. His admission came as a leading psychiatrist described the service as in “crisis”.