Anguish continues over a shortage of mental health beds in Norfolk

Hellesdon Hospital. Photo: Bill Smith.

Hellesdon Hospital. Photo: Bill Smith. - Credit: Archant © 2012

A Norwich mental health patient, who was transferred to a bed 225 miles from home in November, was brought back to Norfolk just in time for Christmas – but 21 other vulnerable patients remain far from their families this festive season.

The woman's parents, from Norwich, have pushed for their daughter, who we have not named, to be found a bed at Hellesdon Hospital ever since she was taken to the Priory Hospital in Darlington in November.

The long distance meant their daughter was not able to see her community nurse or parents.

She faced Christmas without her family because of the lack of beds in East Anglia.

But after the EDP called the Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) on Christmas Eve, the Trust told the parents a bed at Hellesdon had been found and their daughter would be transferred that day.

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'We're delighted our daughter is back for Christmas following a call from the EDP,' said her father, a retired psychiatric nurse.

There are currently 21 patients out of area at the NSFT who could be cared for in East Anglia if there were enough beds for them.

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The trust cut the number of beds and staff as part of a 'radical redesign' in 2012.

It cut almost £15m from its more than £200m budget last year and 175 staff left through redundancies.

The organisation is looking to reduce its budget by 20% between 2012 and 2016 as part of an efficiency drive. But that has left it short of beds and led to £600,000 being spent in November alone on out-of-area beds.

To help address the issue the NSFT will open a previously shut ward at the end of February at Hellesdon with 12 new beds.

The couple complained to the trust earlier this month about the past few months of their daughter's care. They said the care declined after 2012 when the service redesign took place.

Their daughter's community nurse left and since then she has not had a regular point of contact at the trust.

She stopped taking medicines and her mental state declined, leading to her needing to be sectioned at the beginning of November.

The trust's Director of Operations Debbie White said: 'We're reducing the numbers of out-of-area patients and we know just how difficult and frustrating it is for service users, their families, and our staff, and we do apologise for that.'

Revamped suite for mental health patients

A revamped suite to keep mental health patients out of police cells has opened at Hellesdon Hospital.

The Norfolk & Suffolk Mental Health Trust has spent £350,000 on 11 mental health specialists to staff the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen round the clock at Hellesdon Hospital.

It means someone detained by the police under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act is more likely to be taken to the suite than to a police cell.

The suite has room for one person

The money came from Norwich, North, South and West Norfolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

The first patients were taken into the newly staffed suite last week.

Around 24 people in Norfolk need to be looked after and assessed each month in one of the Norfolk's two Section 136 suites. The other is at the Fermoy Unit in King's Lynn.

The investment in staff also means police should be able to hand over patients quicker and return to duty.

In 2013-14 in Norfolk, people were kept in police cells 25 times under section 136 rather than at one of the suites.

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