Governor quits with blast at mental health trust

Clare Smith was appointed public governor of the NSFT in 2018. Photo: Archant

Clare Smith was appointed public governor of the NSFT in 2018. Photo: Archant - Credit: Archant

A governor at the region's mental health trust has quit, accusing the service of putting its reputation before the care of patients.

In a resignation letter, public governor Clare Smith, claimed the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) placed its "corporate reputation above the needs of vulnerable people".

The Trust, which is in special measures, was rated as "requires improvement" by inspectors last week.

It said in response to Mrs Smith's concerns that it would bring in an independent person to review her complaint.

The former BBC reporter, from Beeston Regis, said an email sent last week by the NSFT's communications manager gloating that the Trust had "got away" with bad media coverage over the death of an 88-year old woman, was part of a wider culture.

And in a letter to chair of governors Marie Gabriel on January 4 she wrote: "I think on a personal level all of you are honourable, compassionate individuals doing your best by your lights to turn the Trust around.

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"But when honourable, compassionate - even likeable - people put on their corporate hats, they often do things that are in the corporate body's interests rather than in the interests of the people it's supposed to serve."

Mrs Smith also hit out at her fellow governors for language used in meetings.

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The former Newsnight reporter said in December when the closure of the City Reach medical service for homeless people was discussed, one governor described the users as "unfortunates".

"Such language echoes at best attitudes rife in the 1970s, but sounded more like a Dickensian notion of people with mental illness," she wrote. "That was horrible enough, but it was worse that no-one in the room challenged him."

Mrs Smith, who was appointed a public governor in 2018, added: "I've been shaken by the gulf between what everyone says they believe in and what they do."

In response Mrs Gabriel said: "The Trust has been working alongside our Council of Governors, strengthening their voice and opportunity to both challenge and inform the improvements we are making."

She said inspectors found most governors were positive about changes being made at the NSFT.

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