Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust could lose medical training deal with University of East Anglia

Students at the University of East Anglia. Picture: Supplied

Students at the University of East Anglia. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Supplied

The region's mental health trust risks financial losses and reputational damage because of its poor performance training medical students.

Bosses at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) have been warned that its undergraduate education programme is not meeting standards. Directors discussing the programme at last week's board meeting were told the UEA had proposed to remove its students from the trust because of the poor standard of teaching for undergraduates.

The university's students receive training at trust-run facilities in east Suffolk, central Norfolk, Yarmouth and Waveney, which provides around £921,000 a year in service increment for teaching (SIFT) funding for the NSFT. Medical director Bohdan Solomka presented a report to the meeting, which said UEA's concerns represented a 'key risk to the trust's finances and reputation.'

He said that while consultants enjoyed teaching, time pressures meant less than 60pc of training was being completed, compared with a 90pc target to be achieved by September. Feedback from students indicated they 'feel unwelcome and a bit of a burden' when they visit the trust, Dr Solomka said.

To improve performance, new job plans are being written with teaching included so that consultants are able to allocate more time for students. However Dr Solomka admitted 11 staff were yet to complete the task. Chief executive Michael Scott said the education programme 'had not moved forward as we would have wanted'. 'I don't think we are there yet,' he added. 'We've got to do more to move faster.'

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Board chairman Gary Page asked why more had not been done to ensure the job plans were finished.

'It seems they don't want to play ball,' he added. 'Why don't we just haul them in and tell them to do it?'

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Dr Solomka said there had been improvements 'but we are starting from a very low base'. 'All I can say is that it's an improvement on last year,' he added.

The NSFT runs a separate training programme from west Suffolk for students from Cambridge, which is said to have been far more successful. Dr Solomka said the money for that scheme had been ring fenced to ensure teaching was provided.

Speaking after the meeting he said: 'The feedback we have received from Cambridge University medical students undergoing mental health placements in our west Suffolk services has been very positive.

'However, we recognise the standard of teaching, in some other areas, has dropped below the high standards we would hold ourselves up to.

'We are fully committed to putting that right and to delivering excellent teaching right across student doctor placements in the trust. So, we intend to take what we are doing well in west Suffolk and replicate this right across our trust in the future.

'To achieve this we are undertaking a complete review and restructure of our medical undergraduate teaching and we will be reinforcing the importance of good teaching. We will offer greater clarity on the training standards we expect our staff to offer to students, and we will offer support to those delivering the training to ensure they can meet the high standards expected.'

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