Analysis: New suicide prevention strategy makes promising sounds but lacks detail

Hellesdon Hospital, the headquarters of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust - which runs the No

Hellesdon Hospital, the headquarters of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust - which runs the Norfolk Recovery Partnership together with two other organisations. - Credit: Archant � 2012

The region's mental health trust was the subject of a special investigations programme on the BBC last month - but what can we learn from its most recent reports?

After much media scrutiny in January Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) bosses will have been relieved to have a quiet February.

However two key issues cropped up at Thursday's meeting which relate directly to the hotly-debated saga of unexpected deaths at the trust.

NSFT is clearly keen to send out the message that it is doing all it can do tackle this issue, and today it launched a new five-year 'Suicide Prevention Strategy'.

This 13-page document contained some promising sounds but lacks details. It lists certain steps such as 'increasing availability of male specific intervention' and developing care pathways for at-risk people, though this was not expanded upon.

Time will tell whether the strategy can enable the trust to bring down the number of suicides by 10pc in that timeframe – in line with the national target.

More worthy of note was the six-monthly mortality review, which revealed a string of facts about patient deaths at NSFT regardless of cause.

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It showed us that there were 237 deaths between April-September 2016, of which 61pc were males.

Interestingly 40pc of those deaths were still the subject of investigations before a cause of death could be established.

This gives us an indication of the backlog the trust faces when it comes to reviewing patient outcomes and learning from subsequent recommendations.

It's a problem the trust is experiencing throughout the organisation.

Judging by the report it appears staff simply haven't got the time to meet to discuss learning from cases, and that is something NSFT will need to address.

What is clear is that care in the community is becoming increasingly important.

Nearly 40pc of NSFT patients who died unexpectedly had been discharged, showing work is needed by the trust and other NHS organisations to protect people struggling to cope on their own.

Meanwhile the number of patients sent to Mundesley Hospital or out of Norfolk and Suffolk peaked in January, costing NSFT £578,000.

Despite this the trust remains on track to hit its financial targets, and its spending on agency staff is lower than most other NHS trusts in the region.

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