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'It is distressing' - Mental health patients still being sent for out of county care

PUBLISHED: 08:03 11 October 2019 | UPDATED: 09:31 11 October 2019

Professor Jonathan Warren, new chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Picture: NSFT

Professor Jonathan Warren, new chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Picture: NSFT

Justin Setterfield

Health care boss admits sending mental health patients out of Norfolk and Suffolk for treatment is "distressing".

But figures at the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation trust's (NSFT) annual meeting on Thursday, October 10 revealed nine patients were currently receiving out of area care.

Chief executive Jonathan Warren admitted the figure was not good enough, but we're at least an improvement after a 'bleak' April this year which saw more than 70 patients sent hundreds of miles away to be looked after.

Mr Warren said: "The separation from loved ones is distressing for patients. And while there has been an improvement, nine people receiving out of area care is still nine people too many.

"We must reduce out of area referrals to zero."

The meeting also highlighted the financial strain out of area care places on the trust, with £6m spent on sending patients elsewhere in 2017/18.

Various bosses at NSFT has made promises to eradicate the use of out of area beds, including a pledge to stop the practice by 2021.

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Meanwhile, the meeting revealed staff problems are also causing a headache for health bosses with falling numbers remaining at the trust and treating patients.

Mr Warren said: "There is not enough staff and a high proportion of staff members leave the profession after two years. We want to encourage progression.

"Often mistakes are located within individual members of staff and that is not fair."

He pledged an overhaul of the culture at NSFT to combat the issue, with a strong focus on staff empowerment and nurturing.

Mr Warren added: "Culture trumps strategy and we are going to be listening to staff and service users with absolute fascination. We need to have honest conversations.

"All of our staff from cleaners to nurses to doctors to receptionists are truly fantastic."

But patient readmission figures have improved at the NSFT, with a 10pc drop in those returning to care within 28 days.

Chief nurse Diane Hull said discharge planning now begins as soon as a patient is taken into care to ensure long term recovery.

The Care Quality Commission is inspecting the NSFT from October 1 to October 19. The trust was rated inadequate in 2017 and has been in special measures ever since.

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