Charity’s concern over mental health changes in Norfolk and Suffolk

A major overhaul of mental health services is leaving patients confused and leading to delays in getting treatment, a leading charity has warned.

Officials from the Bury St Edmunds-based Workwise, which helps patients to return to employment or training following ill health, spoke of their concern about the changes being made at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. The NHS trust is looking to cut more than 400 jobs over the next three years and the number of inpatient beds as part of plans to slash its budget by 20pc.

Workwise bosses said the changes were causing confusion and raised concerns that patients were facing delays in accessing services.

Val Beresford, Workwise chief executive, warned that the radical redesign of services at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust was also affecting staff morale.

'All our clients are under the care of a designated clinical care coordinator and it is vital our clients keep in regular contact with their clinician. However the trust clinicians do not know where they will be based or even if they will still have a job.

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'We know this is leaving the clinicians with very low morale and we are only finding out they have moved by answer machine messages. The situation is making it very difficult for us to contact the clinicians. Our clients are saying they haven't been told anything and are concerned as they do not know where to go or who to call if they have a problem,' she said.

Workwise has helped more than 5,000 people with mental ill health over the past 28 years across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

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Mrs Beresford added: 'The earlier people with mental ill health can access appropriate services the better their prospects of making a full recovery.'

Debbie White, director of operations for Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust in Suffolk, said a new access and assessment service, which started in central and west Norfolk in February and Suffolk on July 1 was designed to make services simpler and quicker. She added that the trust was happy to talk to Workwise about their concerns.

'The trust has been clear from the outset that patient safety will be the primary focus throughout the implementation of the trust service strategy. In Suffolk, the process to move to the new integrated service model began on July 1 and this transition is planned to take three months. All staff in Suffolk, including consultants and care coordinators, have been informed of their roles in this new structure.'

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