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Caseloads up to nearly four times target amount for mental health staff

Jonathan Warren, chief executive at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT). Photo: NSFT

Jonathan Warren, chief executive at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT). Photo: NSFT

Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust

Under pressure staff at the region's struggling mental health trust are tackling caseloads nearly four times higher than they are meant to.

Chris Jones. Pic: Labour Party.Chris Jones. Pic: Labour Party.

The problem was highlighted by Labour County Councillor Dr Chris Jones, at Norfolk County Council's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) meeting on Thursday.

Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) chief executive Professor Jonathan Warren and medical director Bodhan Solomka were summoned in front of councillors to update them on progress since their latest failing Care Quality Commission (CQC) report.

Dr Jones said: "There are individuals within the trust whose caseloads are nearly four times over the target you're aiming for."

Documents prepared for the meeting showed some 66 members of staff working in adult community services in central Norfolk had more than 25 patients on their caseload.

The same service had a member of staff with 75 patients on their list.

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Prof Warren more investment was on its way to help tackle this but he added: "In the interim, I don't think we can carry on as we are.

"Our referral rate is increasing month on month, we know we are taking on 30 or 40 more patients every other month than we are discharging.

"There are only two things that can happen there, either waiting lists grow or caseloads grow and they are at the limit to where they can be."

Prof Warren also said there were more clinical staff in the service than previously, which was welcomed by Dr Jones who said "It's not that long ago your predecessor was coming here saying they were happy about cutting staff and how it would make things easier."

There was also concern about out of area placements, where a lack of beds meant patients were sent sometimes hundreds of miles away for treatment.

Prof Warren said at its peak there were 90 patients outside of the trust and this was now down to around 50, with a target to eradicate it completely.

He said: "I've asked my chief nurse to qrite to everyone who is placed out of area first of all to apologise to them, and second she gives her personal phone number. We do not underestimate this problem."

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