Norfolk Mental health boss refutes claims that his trust is in crisis
- Credit: Archant
The head of mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk has refuted suggestions his NHS trust is in crisis ahead of a public meeting aimed at saving local services.
Andrew Hopkins, interim chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said he supported elements of a new campaign that is set to be launched by front-line staff on Monday. However, he said members of the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk should focus their attentions on calling for the government and commissioners to dedicate more funding to mental health services.
The NHS trust is in the process of slashing £40m from its budget by 2016 and cutting bed numbers by 20pc as part of a radical redesign of services, which has prompted unions to say that services are in 'severe crisis' with some patients having to be placed on inpatient wards outside of Norfolk and Suffolk and reports of 58 unexpected deaths of patients since April.
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But Mr Hopkins said the NHS trust was hitting the care quality standards and financial targets set by health regulators Monitor and the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
'We do not recognise the term of being in crisis. We are meeting all of our quality targets and we are meeting our financial targets with Monitor. All of our CQC reports show there are no significant concerns with the trust.'
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'We have had two independent reviews - one on quality and one on financial stability - there are some improvements we need to make, but there is nothing fundamentally broken. There is a lot of praise with the way the strategy has been led and developed. I will not pretend that everything is perfect. There are some areas where we are looking to change and whether we need to bolster services and staffing levels,' he said.
Mr Hopkins was set to meet members of the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk yesterday ahead of their open meeting at 7pm on Monday at the Vauxhall Centre in Johnson Place, Norwich. He added that demand for mental health services went up in times of recession and financial difficulties.
'I support a large element of this campaign and we all want to see more investment and more money put to mental health by our clinical commissioning groups (CCG). If they want more investment in mental health, it is not right to target the campaign at the mental health trust.'
'Increased demand is something we have to pick up with CCGs. They have a duty to buy the right services for their population. Their funding goes up every year and our funding is being cut.'
'Our beds are very efficient. We are at the high end of efficient use of acute beds and it is more of an issue of how many we have and there are particular pressures on those beds. We are trying to reduce delayed discharges and create alternatives to admissions. If we have those in place, they will be more effectively used.'
Between April and October, NSFT received 58 reports of unexpected deaths of mental health patients across Norfolk and Suffolk, according to figures from a Freedom of Information request. For the whole of 2012/13, there were 88 unexpected deaths.
The trust spent more than £13m on inpatient placements outside of the two counties over the last three years.
NSFT patients being sent to institutions outside of the trust jumped from 77 in 2011/2012 to 117 in 2012/13. Officials said the number of out-of-area placements only represented a small proportion of admissions and many were specialist placements.
Mr Hopkins added: 'Beds are a difficult one. There is a debate to be had and I do not know if we need more. Beds should be the last resort. Our doctors here believe they can manage with the beds they have if we can address delayed discharges. We have had 2,000 acute places of which 50 have gone out of area this year.'
Officials from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation announced earlier this month that 79 workers that were being made redundant or taking voluntary redundancy were being offered the opportunity to apply for vacancies in the trust. The organisation currently has more than 100 vacancies.
Mr Hopkins said those staff were going through one-to-one interviews to come to a mutual agreement over whether they wanted to stay or go.
'We are eight to nine months into the implementation and it is clear there are more vacancies that have arisen in the service and some were unforeseen,' he said.