Hundreds march through Norwich as campaigners call for better mental health services in region

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk protest taking place in Norwich c

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk protest taking place in Norwich centre. It comes as mental health services in the region are facing the strain following multi-million pound cuts and the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust being placed into special measures. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

Calls for better mental health services echoed around the centre of Norwich today as hundreds of people took part in a march to send a clear message to NHS leaders.

Campaigners and politicians said action is needed now and called for steps to be taken at both local and national level to help people needing services.

The marchers paused at Castle Mall, a spot where people have committed suicide in the past, and a candle was lit in their memory with a minute of silence observed.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust was the first mental health trust in the country to be put in special measures last year, after cutting services as part of a radical transformation which has delivered £44m in savings over the last four years.

In that time the number of unexpected deaths has rocketed from 53 in 2012/13 to 139 in 2014/15, although the trust says this is in line with national figures.

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The trust's poor performance following its transformation prompted the birth of Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk, which organised the march on Saturday.

Terry Skyrme, a member of the group who used to work for the trust, said: 'The stretching of the services provided is stressing the staff.

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'The staff are very caring but they're struggling to do a good job because they're so stretched.

'We think cuts to mental health mean more deaths.'

Marchers called for mental health services to be treated equally with physical health services, and said more funding is needed.

Politicians who spoke to the marchers included Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, Emma Corlett, a member of the trust's staff and Unison, and Ian Gibson, the former Norwich North MP. The trio are all members of the Labour Party.

Last November the government announced a £600m injection into mental health services, while £1.9m is being pumped into improving services for children and adolescents.

Michael Scott, chief executive of the trust, told Mustard TV's This Week programme that since being put in special measures the trust has reduced the number of patients sent out of area, improved its community services, and 'got the number of beds about right'.

He said it was too soon to say how much the trust would benefit from the government's £600m injection into mental health.

Government watchdog the Care Quality Commission will inspect the trust again this summer, which Mr Scott hopes will lead to an exit from special measures.

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