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More mental health beds could be opened in Norfolk - if commissioners grant the funding

PUBLISHED: 08:31 08 December 2017 | UPDATED: 08:50 08 December 2017

A mental health inpatient bed at Whitlingham Ward, Hellesdon Hospital, run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). Staff Tawanda Mutizwa and Anne Blythe prepare a room ready to welcome a service user. Photo: NSFT.

A mental health inpatient bed at Whitlingham Ward, Hellesdon Hospital, run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). Staff Tawanda Mutizwa and Anne Blythe prepare a room ready to welcome a service user. Photo: NSFT.

NSFT

More inpatient mental health beds could be opened in Norfolk, it has been revealed - if commissioners agree to put up the funding.

The move was announced yesterday (Thursday) as bosses from the region’s mental health trust were hauled before councillors to answer questions over Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s (NSFT) recent damning inspection report.

Chief executive Julie Cave, along with medical director Bohdan Solomka and Norfolk director of operations Debbie White, were quizzed on a number of topics by Norfolk County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, including the availability of beds.

Not having enough beds has previously caused patients to be placed in expensive private hospitals or sent hundreds of miles from home for treatment. Labour councillor Emma Corlett said: “The CQC has said in two inspections that you don’t have enough beds. Evidence from Unison also says you do not have enough beds.”

Mrs Cave said the problem was a lack of staff, but Mrs White revealed by July it was hoped another 15 beds could be opened at Yare Ward, at Hellesdon Hospital. But she added: “We have to negotiate funding from the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).”

Previously, the trust cited a beds review which said they could have enough beds when wellbeing hubs (also known as crisis cafes) and community services were further developed. However procurement for the wellbeing hubs has only just begun.

In the same meeting, it was shown the proportion of money given to the mental health trust by commissioners had fallen. Although in cash terms investment had risen, the percentage of the total budget spent at NSFT had fallen between 2013/14 and 2016/17. For 2017/18 it continued to fall at all CCGs except Great Yarmouth and Waveney. It comes at a time when demand for NSFT services continues to rise. Representing all five of Norfolk and Waveney’s CCGs Jocelyn Pike said: “We are not suggesting NSFT have got to consume their own smoke, we understand we will need to prioritise funding accordingly.”

However she admitted as there was no extra money expected from central government, this funding would need to come from other areas.

‘I don’t know what’s in the contract’

Bosses at the mental health trust have never seen a copy of the contract for its beleaguered IT system.

Chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Julie Cave yesterday admitted that because the agreement was between NHS Digital and the suppliers of electronic patient record system Lorenzo, those at the top of the trust had never seen the detail.

Lorenzo was the cause of complaint for many in the 2016 staff survey, and inspectors said it was having an impact on staff and patient care.

Mrs Cave said: “I don’t know what’s in [the contract]. I’ve said to NHS Digital we want a drop dead date where enough is enough. In three years time it will be up anyway and I can’t see us renewing it.”

Councillors were also told the private Ellingham Hospital was now being used by the trust after the unsafe Mundesley Hospital closed in October, which could be more expensive.

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