The under-fire chief executive of the region's failing mental health trust has said calls to split it into separate organisations for Norfolk and Suffolk are misguided.

Stuart Richardson, chief executive of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, has said he is "deeply sorry" after it was rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for the fourth time.

It has prompted calls from campaigners and bereaved families for the Trust to be disbanded and services to once again be split - but Mr Richardson does not support this approach.

"Doing this would detract from what we are trying to do to turn things around,” he said. “It would be an 18-month project that would put off getting to the details we need to address.

"With integrated care boards coming in, we have a different opportunity to look at how we configure the system and make sure we can meet the needs of both counties.

"For me, splitting the organisation will not provide a better outlook for Norfolk and Suffolk."

Campaigners have also called for Mr Richardson to either tender his resignation or be removed from his post. The CEO has insisted he is the right man for the job though.

Mr Richardson started formally in his post in September 2021, having previously served as its chief operating officer.

Asked if the report's damning findings made his job untenable, he said: "I don't believe so - I started my role as chief executive two months before the inspection happened.

"My role as operating officer was to make sure operations were managed in the Trust - now my responsibility is much greater and I can help make a greater difference.

"I believe I have been able to make sure I have the right team around me and my background is as a clinical nurse - my entire career has been built around working in the NHS and mental health services.

"I am fully committed and want to be here to ensure we can embed the changes we need to make to improve. I feel confident that with the right team around me we can do that.

"I love working here and I am passionate about it."

Mr Richardson said he "fully accepts" the findings of the CQC report, which highlighted a wide range of concerns about how the Trust was being run and the impact this had on the care it was able to deliver.

He said one of the biggest learnings to take from the report is the need to pay closer attention to the fears and concerns of his own staff members.

He said: "I think in the past we have had too much of a top-down approach, where we have spoken at our staff rather than listening to them.

"We need to take a more bottom-up approach, where staff members feel they are being listened to and contribute to how the team is working.

"I absolutely apologise to every staff member who feels that they have not been given the tools they need to provide the care they want to provide."

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At the Trust's annual general meeting, Mr Richardson said the Trust had the goal of being in the top quarter of mental health trusts in the country by 2023.

But of this target, he added: "This was a message I inherited from the previous chief executive and chair - we don't feel now that is something that really means anything to people.

"Our feeling is that we need to make sure we meet the requirements of the report's action plan and make continuous improvements.

"We have to make this a better place for people to work and we are redoubling efforts to recruit the staff we need to be able to provide the care the people of Norfolk and Suffolk deserve."

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: "The current chief executive was the chief operating officer from August 2018 and so this has happened on his watch and he has to fully accept his part in this."