Inspectors have not ruled out parachuting in government special administrators at mental health trust

Dr Paul Lelliott, Care Quality Commission. Photo: Philip Wolmuth

Dr Paul Lelliott, Care Quality Commission. Photo: Philip Wolmuth - Credit: Archant

The top inspector of England's hospitals has not ruled out asking the government to take over the region's failing mental health trust.

Calls have been made that the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) had been given too many chances when it was rated unsafe and poorly led for the third time.

Norwich South MP, Labour's Clive Lewis, said: 'This has become a national disgrace.'

And Paul Farmer, from mental health charity Mind, said: 'When a trust fails and then fails again, you have to ask questions about what action needs to be taken to change that.'

Although it was given the worst possible rating, NSFT could still be put into special administration, a classification kept strictly for the very worst of health organisations.

And Dr Paul Lelliott, England's chief inspector of hospitals at the Care Quality Commission, said: 'We certainly have not ruled out recommending to the secretary of state that he appoints a special administrator.'

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk, which launched three days of action after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report into NSFT came out, said: 'We believe the only solution is the involvement of the secretary of state to haul Norfolk and Suffolk into special administration.'

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Only two healthcare trusts have ever been put into special administration, and never a mental health trust.

One of those was Mid Staffordshire Trust - known as Mid Staffs - and campaigners have taken to dubbing the NSFT crisis the 'mental health Mid Staffs'.

A disputed estimate was that between 400 and 1,200 patients died as a result of poor care at Stafford Hospital between January 2005 and March 2009.

And Mid Staffs has become a byword for NHS care at its most negligent, with a number of inquiries launched to get to the bottom of failings. The Francis Inquiry condemned the 'appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people' at the trust.

Eventually, in 2014, then health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the time had come to plans to dissolve the trust and move key services to neighbouring hospitals.

But sending in special administrators, such as those being called for at NSFT, cost almost £19.5m.