Mental health trust put in special measures for third time as failings branded ‘deeply disturbing’
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
The region's mental health trust is today in special measures for the third time, after an inspection uncovered a litany of failings branded 'deeply disturbing' by MPs.
The Care Quality Commission found patients desperately needing care were waiting so long for help they harmed themselves or took overdoses during delays - or were being turned away completely.
The lack of services at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) has been highlighted in the CQC's report following a September inspection.
It said NSFT had had four years to improve but still was not meeting the standards expected of it by inspectors.
And England's chief inspector of hospitals Dr Paul Lelliott said: 'The people who depend on this trust for care and support deserve better.'
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MPs branded the situation 'deeply disturbing' and called for the trust to be broken up into smaller organisations.
Staff were covering up the length of waiting lists by allocating patients to staff or running several lists whilst agreeing that nothing would be offered until space was available.
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And some patients had been waiting five years for help.
Efforts which had been made to improve had fallen flat - or even created more problems as 'work undertaken had created new risks'.
For example, the trust had replaced soap and hand towel dispensers following the last inspection. This had actually increased risk to patients as the new dispensers were screwed to the wall, causing a new ligature anchor point.
Dr Lelliott said: 'We were particularly concerned about the safety of patients waiting for assessment or treatment by the community mental health teams.
'Inspectors found that staff were sometimes 'downgrading' referrals from urgent to routine without ensuring that it was safe to do so. There were instances of people who had significant needs being denied a service and records showed some patients harmed themselves while waiting for contact from clinical staff.'
Almost 2,400 patients across the trust had not been allocated a care coordinator - a person to oversee their care
Lucy Webb-Rose, of Broad Street, Bungay has been without a care coordinator for four months due to long-term sickness, but no alternative arrangements had been put in place. This was despite as suicide attempt in September which saw her end up in the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston.
Mrs Webb-Rose, 47, said on discharge she was referred to the crisis home treatment team but it was another three days before she saw anyone.
Mrs Webb-Rose, who has bipolar, said: 'They have not put anything in place. I've got a couple of support workers but I'm suffering emotionally and they don't understand bipolar.
'It's a failing trust and no one wants to say it. Care in the community is a nice name but it does not happen.
'I'm suicidal on a daily basis and I fight every day.'
Inspectors also said: 'Waiting lists across services were a serious issue.'
Some 636 children and young people were waiting for treatment as of September 20, and in July more than 220 had been waiting more than 18 weeks for help. Some 36 patients had been waiting for treatment since being referred more than five years ago in May 2013.
Harley Lasham, 20, from Great Yarmouth was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD last year. It took 10 months to get an initial appointment and now she is facing another three months on the waiting list.
She said: 'It's been very frustrating, with having such serious disorders and not knowing how to manage it, it feels like you're banging your head against a wall.
'I really honestly do feel that a lot of what I have been through this year alone could've been prevented if they had seen me sooner rather than such a long wait.'
Miss Lasham said: 'I myself have been in the services since I was 12 and have had nothing but waits. I have friends that are in the services and have been through the same.
'People are left to try and work through their mental health on their own. The brain is an organ just as the liver is, but if it was the liver having difficulty, that wouldn't be made to wait would it?
'They leave their patients for a year plus, with mentally ill people, anything can happen in a year, it's a very dangerous thing to just put on pause.'