A year in special measures - Mental health boss says progress is being made
PUBLISHED: 08:42 05 March 2016 | UPDATED: 08:42 05 March 2016
For all the talk of equal funding for mental healthcare, there is still little to suggest the NHS’ ‘Cinderella service’ is being financed fairly – according to the man tasked with improving services in the region.
Michael Scott, chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said it was hard to see examples of “parity of esteem” (valuing mental health equally with physical health) despite the rhetoric expressed nationally.
His comments came in a wide-ranging interview with this newspaper, just over a year after NSFT became the first mental health trust in the country to be put into special measures.
Asked what had changed since then, Mr Scott said improvements were being made in key areas but not as quickly as he would have liked.
Since last year the trust has achieved reductions in the number of patients sent out of area for treatment and the use of temporary staff, and improved its use of seclusion and physical restraints on patients.
All those issues were highlighted as areas of concern last year by watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC), whose report prompted health regulator Monitor to place the trust in special measures.
While Mr Scott welcomed those improvements, question marks remain over the number of unexpected deaths – currently subject to an independent inquiry – and how future funding will impact on the trust’s ability to hit targets introduced in April.
The CQC is expected to carry out its next inspection in July, which could result in the trust being taken out of special measures.
Mr Scott said: “We would be happy for the CQC to come now because I know that we’ve made a lot of changes and progress.
“I think the special measures label sometimes makes it difficult for our staff to feel proud of the organisation, so it would be a big step up for us to be taken out of special measures.”
Regardless of how the inspection goes, the trust still faces significant challenges financially.
In December, the government announced a £1.8bn injection to help hospitals achieve financial balance, yet almost none of that will go to mental health trusts.
Mr Scott said: “That was very disappointing and I’m talking to our MPs about it because we would like some extra funding too.”
Last month the government announced £1bn of money would go to mental health, although Mr Scott said so far no details had been released on how the money would filter down locally.
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