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Unexpected deaths rise coincides with bed closures at region’s mental health trust, Panorama finds

PUBLISHED: 08:25 07 February 2017 | UPDATED: 08:25 07 February 2017

Reporter Sophie Hutchinson of BBC Panorama, which broadcast last night, said the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust cut 136 psychiatric beds from 2012 onwards  even though demand continued to rise (Picture: BBC)

Reporter Sophie Hutchinson of BBC Panorama, which broadcast last night, said the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust cut 136 psychiatric beds from 2012 onwards  even though demand continued to rise (Picture: BBC)

Archant

A sharp rise in the number of mental health patients dying unexpectedly coincided with the responsible organisation cutting nearly a quarter of its inpatient beds.

Picture posed by models. A rise in mental health patients dying unexpectedly has prompted scrutiny of the region's mental health trust. Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA WirePicture posed by models. A rise in mental health patients dying unexpectedly has prompted scrutiny of the region's mental health trust. Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Special investigations programme BBC Panorama, broadcast this evening, said the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) cut 136 psychiatric beds from 2012 onwards - even though demand continued to rise.

At the same time - as highlighted previously by this newspaper - the number of unexpected deaths has risen sharply.

An unexpected death is classed as one where the cause could not be anticipated. It can be suicide, natural causes, a physical illness or an accident and includes anyone who has been treated by the trust in the six months before their death.

A graph from NSFT shows the number of unexpected deaths per 100,000 patients rose from around 90 to around 140 between 2013-2016.

In 2013 NSFT embarked on a “radical redesign”, cutting services while saving million of pounds.

NSFT governor Sheila Preston, whose son Leo died unexpectedly while in the care of the trust, told Panorama: “Before the changes (the radical redesign), Leo was seen at least once a week.

“After the changes I asked his nurse and she hadn’t seen him for four weeks.”

Panorama also reported that the number of unexpected patient deaths reported by mental health trusts in England has risen sharply by almost 50pc in three years.

The graph that shows the number of unexpected deaths (red line) at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust which has risen in the last few years. The number is measured per 100,000 patients. Graph supplied by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.The graph that shows the number of unexpected deaths (red line) at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust which has risen in the last few years. The number is measured per 100,000 patients. Graph supplied by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

It reported that funding for mental health services nationally has dropped by £150m, though the government disputed this.

Latest statistics from NSFT show 140 patients suffered “unexpected deaths” from April to December last year – the first three of four quarters of the 2016/17 financial year.

‘A devastating expose of the failure of mental health services’ - Campaigners

Those involved in Monday night’s Panorama show, which focused on failings at the region’s mental health trust, said they spoke out to show how bad services had become.

Sheila Preston was featured on the BBC One show after her son Leo, who was being treated by the NSFT, died from a suspected accidental overdose late last year.

“I felt that I had to inform people of what I consider is happening concerning the care of mentally ill people,” she said after the programme was broadcast.

Emma Corlett, a former nurse at the NSFT, who also featured on the show, said services should not have been allowed to have got into such a state when MPs and mental health professionals had known for years the problems faced by the NSFT.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said the BBC show was a “devastating exposé of the failure of mental health services”.

NSFT responds

Michael Scott, chief executive of NSFT, said: “It is with great disappointment that on viewing the Panorama programme we noted that NSFT was the only trust presented as an example of the difficult issues being faced throughout the country in mental health services.

“It was also noted that no positive examples of the excellent care our staff provides were used within the programme and that little focus was given to the improvements that have been made in our trust in more recent times.

“But we are concerned, first and foremost, with the potentially negative affect this will have upon our local service users and carers and upon our staff.

“I can give our staff no greater personal testament other than to say if a member of my family needed mental health services, I would have no hesitation in placing them in the care of the staff at NSFT.

“Our staff do the very best job that they can every day for local service users, carers and families, under the immense pressures which are facing the NHS and mental health services right across the country.

“Their dedication in helping to turn our trust around is ceaseless and we remain extremely proud of what they have achieved so far.

“Our trust has recognised that it has made mistakes in the past and made decisions - some of them many years ago - that still have an effect upon our staff, upon our service users and upon those who care for them.

“For those mistakes, once again, our board offers its most sincere apologies.

“We may still not get everything right all of the time, but we are a different organisation to the one we used to be.

“Looking to the future, the safety of our services remains paramount and central to how this trust will continue to operate.

“We need to continue to raise the bar on quality and there is still work to be done.

“We have not ignored that, nor are we afraid to face it. And we are in the best place we have been in many years in order to achieve this.

Mr Scott referred to comments by England’s previous chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, when the trust was brought out of special measures in October last year – when Professor Richards said: “The trust leadership knows what it must do now to ensure those changes take place.”

Mr Scott pointed to the trust’s overall rating by the Care Quality Commission (“requires improvement”) which “puts us alongside the majority of other NHS mental health trusts in England”.

“We have clear plan of action on how to achieve further improvements, but none of this will happen overnight,” Mr Scott said.

“Of course we take any immediate actions where possible, but it will take years of steady improvement to fully embed the changes that are being made now.

“Perhaps most significantly the programme reflects what we have been championing for some time at NSFT – mental health is as important as physical health and to raise one above the other is to ignore the person you are caring for.

“It causes an imbalance which has a serious effect upon the health of your community and, ultimately, the health of the nation.”

If you feel like you need someone to talk to about any problems you may be facing you can call Samaritans for free on 116 123.

Have you got a mental health story?

Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

20 comments

  • The lack of care from NSFT has destroyed my family. They simply don't care. If they did, the numbers would not be as they are. Still, the main thing as far as they are concerned is that they don't apologize and avoid admitting any liability. To those running the NSFT, you cannot keep circling the wagons forever. How about admitting what is happening. Stop living in denial. They specialize in leaving ill people on trolleys in corridors. I bet the management team sleep like babies.

    Report this comment

    ConcernedCitizen

    Thursday, February 9, 2017

  • They are allowing people to die through negligence, it is that simple. They are not listening to anyone. The whole culture is rotten from top to bottom.

    Report this comment

    ConcernedCitizen

    Thursday, February 9, 2017

  • 'Northern Lass' is spot on, as usual. Further to my earlier comment about my friend, I should add that during his assessment he was faced with describing his suicidal plans and when naturally hesitant was told if he did not hurry up the assessment would be terminated. Thanks again HANDFORD ROAD, IPSWICH. Would you do that to a person with a broken leg? Some people working in NSFT should go home at night and cry for those they allowed to die.

    Report this comment

    Johnthebap

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • Quoting Michael Scott, chief executive of NSFT: "[...] if a member of my family needed mental health services, I would have no hesitation in placing them in the care of the staff at NSFT". Of course you wouldn't, Mr. Scott, because the staff at NSFT wouldn't tell a member of the chief executive's family that there was "absolutely nothing wrong with [them] and [they] need to stop over-reacting" - while they were in the middle of a severe mental health crisis and experiencing overwhelming suicidal ideation. But that seems to be, as far as NSFT staff are concerned, a perfectly acceptable way to treat the the ordinary folk who pay their wages.

    Report this comment

    Northern Lass

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • FACT, within the last year: A friend was referred to NSFT URGENTLY by his GP as a suicide risk. The NSFT assessed him and he was told "You need urgent support and we will be in touch next week". They did not contact him. He contacted his GP and eventually received a call from the NSFT, telling him "We assessed your case and decided you do not need support". Why such a change in assessment within 10 days??? This person was suicidal, suffered serious anxiety and depression, had a history of suicidal tendencies and had a detailed plan how to kill himself. This happened in IPSWICH (well done Handford Road)... he left the area and unfortunately killed himself. The UK is a sick nation (well, except for the wealthy).

    Report this comment

    Johnthebap

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • I'm afraid the politicians with their hands on the purse strings are obsessed with personal popularity rather than priorities. It's the easy option to make savings as the headline stuff lies with the physical side of the NHS, Joe Public is generally completely oblivious about how some people need support when they find life too much.

    Report this comment

    Green Ink from Tunbridge Wells

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • The statement from NSFT is rather hollow. It's all very well to say that things are now being done to improve things, but who allowed the situation to get so bad in the first place? Having experienced the NSFT "service" at first-hand, I would not go near it ever again. There have been too many deaths of service users that could have been avoided if NSFT was up to the task. If the board had a shred of decency it would resign en masse. Based on my experiences with mental health services, my advice to everyone is to look after your mental health because if it declines, things will be very difficult for you if you have any dealings with NSFT.

    Report this comment

    Suffolk Exile

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • Surely the posts here make it plain that sick people are not being cared for in our town and many realise sick people are dying because the government wants to save money.

    Report this comment

    Peter Turtill

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • Sack the Board.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • NSFT - The region's greatest shame. Utterly baffling how they are off of special measures. I'm tempted to send in my own FOI request, as to how much is being spent on such things as their IT budget. I bet that would blow my mind.

    Report this comment

    Edith

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • 1998-99 there were 35,692 available beds for mental illness. In 2009-10 there were 25,503. In Q2 2016 there were 18,820. The reduction has been going on at a stead pace for years, not just under the current administration. The NHS went from 190,006 beds across all specialities in 98-99 to 158,461 in 2009-10 and 129,458 in Q2 2016. It's a long-term issue that all parties need to look at. These are numbers from NHS England, available on their statistics web page.

    Report this comment

    So_Many_Haters!

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • My partner suffers from mental health problems it goes hand in hand with problems he has with pain. There were 2 times last year where the poor sod broke he couldn't take the pain no more and just didn't want to be here suffering it. From his actions etc both times he was presented at a&e (Bury St Edmunds) both times just kicked out (once at 4am) as they had no one who could help him. Last time no one from the mental health team even spoke to him. It's so so frustrating when you have someone who needs help and they are just shut down. We're currently in a limbo as I know he'll break again it's waiting for it to happen it's just knowing next time not to bother with medical intervention as I know it doesn't help. I'm just hoping I can help him next time as last time was hard as he was trying to jump into traffic amongst other things and people on a mental break can be very very irrational. It saddens me that we are not alone. The other day on a local forum a lady was begging for help for her teenage daughters anxiety. They had visited their gp for her anxiety only to be given websites and told that's all they can do for her. That's the generation coming up and they're not being helped. Teens have so much on their shoulders from school and peers, they need that support!

    Report this comment

    Mary Ottaway

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • When did Conservatives and UKIP ever care about sick people?I am sure they will think it more cost effective that this is happening.

    Report this comment

    JC

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • In the months from last June 2016 I have lost 3 friends to suicide. They were lovely people who could not get the support needed to come through. So sad and futile.

    Report this comment

    sue douglas

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • In the months from last June 2016 I have lost 3 friends to suicide. They were lovely people who could not get the support needed to come through. So sad and futile.

    Report this comment

    sue douglas

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • In the months from last June 2016 I have lost 3 friends to suicide. They were lovely people who could not get the support needed to come through. So sad and futile.

    Report this comment

    sue douglas

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • This is exactly what austerity looks like. What did people think was going to happen when they voted in the last general election for the only party (the Tories) who were promising to slash and slash and slash local and central government funding? The old saying "you reap what you sow" has never been more appropriate. Sad times.

    Report this comment

    ipsinaus

    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

  • pure and simple, cuts and more to come everywhere.this recession has been going on for 10 years and nobody has been prosecuted for this mess. we should follow icelands example.

    Report this comment

    Son Na

    Monday, February 6, 2017

  • They always say cut and money ect. They just offer a crap service and get away with it. You would not find any of the peopel who work for NSFT being treated by them? If they fell ill. Fact.

    Report this comment

    Danny

    Monday, February 6, 2017

  • Joe Blogs just doesn't understand mental health. However, to give Joe what he wants; bring back the institutions! Simples!!!!!

    Report this comment

    candy

    Monday, February 6, 2017

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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