Some improvements at mental health trust, inspectors find, but progress not quick enough

Hellesdon Hospital. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Hellesdon Hospital. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Inspectors have told the region's struggling mental health trust that issues last year have not been fixed quick enough.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) returned to Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) in May to check up on the trust's progress.

NSFT was judged inadequate and placed into special measures last year.

And although a report released yesterday found improvements had been made, there was concern the 'pace of change had been slow in respect of some issues' and 'patients did not benefit from safe services in all areas'.

The CQC recognised some of their recommendations had been put in place, including making sure staff had access to alarms, and a plan was in place to stop wards being mixed sex.

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Some progress had also been made in recruiting staff, and both staffing and bed levels were found to be sufficient.

But the report found staffing in the community mental health teams was still lacking, although the trust said they had since seen improvement .

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A spokesman said: 'For example, our commissioners have funded additional posts for community nurses, some qualified nurses who worked for the former Norfolk Recovery Partnership have transferred to community teams and we are looking at our skill mix to make the best use of our staff, such as by having more pharmacists working in the community.'

The report also found 13pc of patients across the trust did not have a care coordinator.

In the King's Lynn adult team, especially, 207 patients were on the waiting list and did not have a care coordinator.

One of those patients had been referred in March 2017 but was still waiting for treatment, despite being rated as 'amber' in the priority ratings of green, amber, and red.

Although much work had gone into a £1.5m project to remedy ligature points - fixtures from which a patient could hang themselves - inspectors found more attention was needed and not all points had been removed.

And while the inspectors 'acknowledge the trust had made progress in respect of seclusion environments at a number of wards, patients were still not always secluded safely or within appropriate environments'.

On Thorpe Ward, the CQC was concerned that a patient was secluded for an extra 14 hours after a doctor had said they were calm enough to be released.

Antek Lejk, chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), said: 'It's heartening that this report acknowledges the improvements our trust has made in many areas.

'We have already identified and started to address the issues that the CQC raises as requiring significant improvement and welcome this report.

'It helps us to continue to sharpen our focus on our ongoing quality improvement programme in the run-up to our next full inspection.

'Our priority remains addressing any urgent safety and quality issues while other challenges, such as staffing, cannot be resolved overnight and are being addressed over a longer period of time.

'But we're not complacent and, in the meantime, we continue to put in actions and mitigations to safely manage these issues.

'We look forward to demonstrating further progress when the CQC returns next month to carry out a more comprehensive inspection.'

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