Hundreds attend first mental health campaign meeting in Norwich

Ian Gibson speaks in the crowded room at the Vauxhall Centre as the campaign to save mental health services is launched.

Ian Gibson speaks in the crowded room at the Vauxhall Centre as the campaign to save mental health services is launched. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

Patients and NHS workers were urged to lobby commissioners and MPs at the launch of a public campaign to save mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk.

There was standing room only as hundreds of people packed into a room at the Vauxhall Centre in Norwich tonight for the first Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk meeting.

The campaign was launched by front-line workers as a result of ongoing cuts by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), which is planning to cut £40m from its budget and reduce the number of inpatient beds by 20pc by 2016.

Officials from the campaign called on the government and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), which control local health budgets, to invest more in mental health services to put a stop to incidents where patients have to be placed on wards outside of Norfolk and Suffolk because there are not enough beds.

Emma Corlett, Unison spokesman for the NSFT branch, said they would be speaking to health minister and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb on Friday to discuss their concerns about the changes happening at the NHS trust. She added that she had new figures that showed staff in the new Norfolk access and assessment service had done more than 3,000 hours of overtime, at a cost of £93,000, since it was launched in the summer.

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'We have clearly not been given enough money and we can not provide a good quality and safe service with our money. There is a lot of discussion about the word crisis, but if you can not get help when you need it, that is a crisis.'

The Norwich mental health nurse added that it was 'callous' of trust managers to describe unexpected deaths of patients as in line with the national average.

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'Any death is unacceptable for anyone in our service,' she said.

As previously reported, NSFT received 58 reports of unexpected deaths of mental health patients across Norfolk and Suffolk, between April and October. For the whole of 2011/12, there were 88 unexpected deaths.

Terry Skyrme, one of the organisers of the campaign who works for the NSFT Crisis Team, added: 'As workers we feel quite powerless and I am sure service users feel the same and relatives feel the same. If we combine, we could be a very powerful lobby. If this was happening in physical medicine, there would be a general strike by now.'

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