A Tory MP has taken his calls for the region's mental health trust to be taken over by the government directly to top ministers.

During a meeting of MPs, health leaders and ministers on Thursday morning, North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker appealed to mental health minister Gillian Keegan to step in over the struggles at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT).

Eastern Daily Press: Care minister Gillian Keegan.Care minister Gillian Keegan. (Image: UK Parliament)

The trust's difficulties were further emphasised this week after a letter co-signed by 140 of its doctors branded its services as "unsafe" and described "demoralisation" among its staff.

NSFT bosses have welcomed the letter and have vowed to work with its medical staff to address these issues.

However, during crunch talks about the trust's future, Mr Baker echoed calls previously made by Labour MP Clive Lewis for the government to step in.

Following the meeting, he said: "Many issues were raised with MPs including the doctors' letter.

"I raised specifically my wishes for special administration to now follow and gave my belief that the trust is not able to improve itself within the six-month Care Quality Commission (CQC) window.

"We will hear of firmer plans of the full range of options for the future of the trust now towards the end of September."

Eastern Daily Press: Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich NorthChloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North (Image: Noah Vickers/Local Democracy Reporting Service)

The meeting was also attended by Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who said: "This was a determined meeting with MPs determined to be able to get what our constituents need and that is proper improvements culminating this month.

"I asked for assurances that the CQC's 'must do' list will be done and for assurances that the trust will be working with other public services too.

"We have heard concerns from the police that they are having to respond to a lot of calls they should not have to and the trust needs to work with them to address these pressures.

"What we need to see is urgent and drastic improvement so that everybody can have confidence in the trust.

"I am looking for serious improvements from the trust right now and I hope that they can deliver that. If they can not, there will be serious options on the table for their future."

The meeting was also attended by NSFT chairman Zoe Billingham, Suffolk MPs including former health secretary Matt Hancock, representatives from the CQC and Norfolk and Suffolk's integrated care systems.

The trust is due to be re-inspected by the CQC this autumn and it is understood ministers see this as its final opportunity to prove that it can bring about the improvements it needs.

Meanwhile, Mrs Bellingham, to who the doctors' letter was addressed, led an extraordinary meeting with members of the medical staffing committee to discuss its concerns.

Speaking after the medical staffing committee, Mrs Billingham said: “Alex Lewis (chief medical director) and I were able to discuss their concerns in more detail and listen to their valuable suggestions for improvement in the future.

“We are under no illusion that we have a lot to do to strengthen the culture at our trust and want all of our staff to play a part. The board is committed to keeping these important conversations going.

"As the chair of the trust, I will be scheduling regular discussions with our doctors so that we can listen to their views and use their insight to guide future improvements.”

Eastern Daily Press: Zoe Billingham, chair of NSFTZoe Billingham, chair of NSFT (Image: Geoff Pugh Photography Limited)

Following the meeting, she posted on Twitter, writing: "Good to talk to many of our hard-working, overstretched doctors to hear their concerns, analysis and clearly stated wish to be fully involved in taking our improvement forward.

"You will be - that’s a promise. We can only get better if we do this together."

Eastern Daily Press: Cath Byford, deputy chief executive of NSFTCath Byford, deputy chief executive of NSFT (Image: NSFT)

The trust is also understood to have set up a series of further face-to-face events for staff members to discuss their concerns.

Cath Byford, deputy chief executive at NSFT, said: “We share the concerns raised by our medical colleagues. We value their views and are committed to working closely with them as we continue to make improvements on behalf of our service users and their families.

“One of our new chief medical officer's top priorities is to engage fully with our medical staff to make sure they are given every opportunity to make a valuable contribution to these improvements.”

Ex-doctor's concerns

A former doctor who left NSFT last year has described their departure as "the best decision of my life".

The consultant, who wished to remain anonymous, said that they was left to feel that their "face did not fit" within the trust.

They spent around four years working for the trust, before tendering their resignation in 2021.

They said: "It felt like four solid years of being shoved under the bus. Every time something went wrong it felt as though the executives would look around for a clinician to pin the blame on.

"The trust desperately needs to stop this blame culture and start properly supporting its staff."

They said they were often felt they were not able to defend themselves or speak out about their concerns.

They added: "I felt that if I did not leave the job it would kill me."