Norfolk and Suffolk mental health boss under fire over ‘unexpected deaths’
The boss of the region’s troubled mental health trust has blamed nurse recruitment problems, funding, and data collection for the high number of patients dying.
Chief executive of the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) Michael Scott was quizzed yesterday by Norfolk County councillors about why so many of the trust’s patients have died unexpectedly.
But his answers failed to impress campaigners who accused him of failing to explain the deaths.
An unexpected death is classed as one where the cause could not be anticipated. It can be suicide, natural causes, a physical illness or an accident and includes anyone who has been treated by the trust in the six months before their death.
As reported by this newspaper in July, the number of unexpected deaths among patients reached a record high at the NSFT earlier this year.
Almost 90 men and women who had been cared for by the trust died unexpectedly from January to May.
The latest figures show there were 11 unexpected deaths in June, 18 in July and 16 in August.
During yesterday’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee at County Hall, Mr Scott said the NSFT had put in place the recommendations of an investigation carried out by a company called Verita in May this year into the number of unexpected deaths.
He also highlighted the lack of funding for mental health and difficulty in recruiting nurses when answering questions from councillors.
“We simply can’t find enough qualified nurses at the moment,” he said.
“Money is going to acute hospitals at the expense of mental health,” he added.
He said the trust also had good reporting practices in place which meant they reported more unexpected deaths than other trusts.
But the committee’s chairman Michael Carttiss said he found it “extraordinary” that the Verita report found the board had been aware of unexpected deaths of patients, yet minutes from board meetings showed these deaths were not discussed.
Mr Scott said the deaths were discussed in other meetings which the chairman of the board attended.
Councillor Emma Corlett said: “The answers we received today do nothing to answer the fundamental question of why there has been an increase in unexpected deaths.”
The committee will now write to the NSFT with further questions.
Health regulator the Care Quality Commission will decide in September whether the NSFT should come out of special measures.
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