New mental health chief’s pledge on out of area bed placements

Michael Scott, new chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust . Photo: Steve Adams

Michael Scott, new chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust . Photo: Steve Adams

The new chief executive of the mental health trust for Norfolk and Suffolk said progress was being made to stop patients from being sent across the country for non-specialist inpatient beds.

More than 100 mental health patients had to travel outside of the two counties for an adult acute bed last year, because Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) did not have any capacity locally.

Members of the NHS trust's board of directors yesterday said they were focused on ending out of area placements after it emerged that the organisation spent almost £500,000 on acute beds costs outside of Norfolk and Suffolk in April and May.

The mental health trust has come under fire from unions and a campaign group over the last year over job and bed cuts as part of a radical redesign of service to reduce its budget by 20pc.

But Michael Scott, who became CEO at the end of last month, told a board of directors meeting that he demanded from day one an action plan to stop out of area placements.

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'The numbers have been unacceptably high and they are coming down. The number this morning was 14 and they have been higher than that and our plan is to continue that reduction,' he said.

A Freedom of Information request revealed earlier this month that patients from Norfolk and Suffolk were sent as far afield to private institutions in Darlington, Bristol, Brighton and Harrogate in 2013/14 when no local beds were available.

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Stuart Smith, non-executive director, said there was now 'system-wide focus' about ending out of area placements for adult inpatient beds and he was 'optimistic' that the matter would be addressed quickly.

Kathy Chapman, director of operations in Norfolk and Waveney, added that home treatment teams in central Norfolk were working well to prevent admissions.

However, there were high rates of sickness within the teams and workers had difficulty in securing a mental health bed quickly for their patients.

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