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Mental health trust rejects efforts to reveal damning report

PUBLISHED: 08:00 27 June 2015 | UPDATED: 11:00 28 June 2015

Michael Scott CEO of the Norfolk and Suffolk FoundationTrust  answering questions on the findings in Care Quality Commission report. Photo : Steve Adams

Michael Scott CEO of the Norfolk and Suffolk FoundationTrust answering questions on the findings in Care Quality Commission report. Photo : Steve Adams

Archant

The region’s ailing mental health trust has refused to release a highly-critical report containing the views of some of its staff, claiming that doing so would stop workers from raising issues in future.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust was placed in special measures in February and is also under investigation by Monitor over a deterioration in its financial performance.

That came on the back of a restructure of the service amidst £44m of savings in the last four years, which union bosses claim has led to a major deterioration in the service the public receives.

Following the launch of a Norwich-based Adult Central Service Line in 2013, which involved a new structure and the loss of jobs, the trust quizzed its staff over the impact the move has had.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the EDP asked for a copy of the subsequent report titled ‘Understanding the Impact of Trust Service Strategy on staff working in the Central Adult Service Line’, but that has been refused.

It is understood that in the report staff are highly critical of the changes and the serious damage it is having on the people they serve.

The trust, in a letter from chief executive Michael Scott, refused the request on the basis that it claimed disclosure would be likely to inhibit ‘the free and frank provision of advice or the free and frank provision exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation’.

It added: “The trust appreciates the importance of transparency in relation to reviews around its service strategy and how this has affected staff.

“It appreciates the importance of openness around the background to any decisions made as a result of the findings in the report.

“Conversely, however, disclosure of such information is likely to inhibit those taking part in similar reviews in future, meaning they could be less effective and lead to poor and less robust decision making.”

The response does admit that the transition of new team “has been hampered by unanticipated challenges including increased staff sickness, vacant posts, erroneous caseload predictions and the interface with other parts of the service”.

It goes on to say the report contains the “free, frank and sometimes unflattering advice and opinions of staff about the trust,” and that “had participation staff known the report would be disclosed/made public it is highly unlikely they would have been so frank in their views.

“The process of allowing trust staff to be open and honest in order to improve the operation of the trust will be inhibited if reviews of this type cannot be conducted in a ‘safe space’ which is protected from publication/disclosure.”

Last week the trust agreed steps to improve its poor finances after the regulator for foundation trusts, Monitor, intervened. Bosses also have to find an extra £36m in savings over the next four years.

Yesterday a trust meeting heard how it spent a record high of £2.4m on temporary staff last month. We will be appealing the refusal.

Should the report be released? Write to Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email edpletters@archant.co.uk


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