'This is the ONLY way forward for Suffolk' - Watchdog's warning over failing mental health trust
The only way forward for mental health services in Suffolk is to adopt a radical strategy distanced from its failing NHS trust.
That’s the view of Andy Yacoub, of Healthwatch Suffolk, as a damning inspection report plunged the region’s mental health service into special measures for the third time in four years.
Problems faced by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) have been enduring and the situation is becoming increasingly fraught for patients and families – despite changes to its leadership team, Mr Yacoub warned.
“The negative impact of poor access to good quality and timely provision, particularly around crisis care needs, has meant many people have gone without the support they need with detrimental – and at times tragic – consequences for their quality of life,” he said.
Pointing to a new radical strategy where mental health services would not necessarily be built around NSFT, Mr Yacoub added: “In our opinion, this is THE only way forward for the people of Suffolk, be they a service user, carer or professional.
“A strategy for the county that is not built around the NSFT but instead around the views and experiences of people using the services, those who support them and those who provide them in the wider context.”
Proposed by Suffolk’s clinical commissioning groups, this new vision already has the support of the Suffolk User Forum, a mental health charity led by patients themselves.
Mr Yacoub’s remarks came as calls were mounting for NSFT to be put into special administration – a classification kept strictly for the very worst of health organisations.
Also known as a failure regime, special administration is a last resort and happens when there have been repeated failures, such as those at NSFT.
It has only been used twice since its creation in 2009 – at Mid Staffs and South London.
A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk demanded action from health secretary Matt Hancock, who was unavailable for comment last night.
“The people of Norfolk and Suffolk have suffered for too long, there have been too many funerals and inquests,” they said.
“We deserve better. It is now time for our MPs to demand decisive action from health secretary, Matt Hancock.”
Vote of confidence from Suffolk User Forum
Suffolk User Forum (SUF), speaking on behalf of the many people in Suffolk who use, or might need to use mental health services, have expressed their continuing concern at the lack of improvement in NSFT’s performance.
SUF is now of the view that much more fundamental change is needed, bosses said.
The organisation is now fully in support of the Suffolk’s CCGs more radical strategy for transforming mental health and emotional wellbeing services’, said manager Jayne Stevens.
Suffolk Parent Carer Network – ‘Grave concern’ at NSFT report
Families told the Suffolk PCN they have:
• Had long waits to access services
• Been told their child/young person is not “ill enough” to meet the threshold
• Observed a “stark and worrying difference” between services, especially when young people turn 18
• Continued to report positively about the Dragonfly inpatient unit for under 18s
In a statement from the board, chiefs said: “We are deeply sad to say that the outcome of the CQC Inspection of NSFT is unsurprising given the level of feedback we have continued to receive from families across Suffolk about their difficulties accessing emotional wellbeing and mental health services for children and young people.
“These concerns have increased significantly over the last twelve months and have led us to believe that things have got much worse for families in this time.”
Management now feels they have reached a “pivotal moment” in the commissioning of emotional wellbeing and mental health services in Suffolk.
“Families continue to be taken to breaking point and beyond because they are unable to access emotional wellbeing and mental health services, and this is completely unacceptable.”
‘Leaders must redouble their efforts’ – MPs
Ipswich MP Sandy Martin said he would back a leadership shake-up at NSFT if he saw evidence to suggest improvements had not been made.
He said it can be difficult for a whole new leadership team to turn things around quickly, adding that when he met current chief executive Antek Lejk he said “all the right things”.
However, he warned of the threat such a large staff shortage could pose: “It is terribly unfortunate for those people who are working so hard at NSFT at a time when there is a widespread staff shortage and a lack of funding. If there is evidence to suggest they have not improved I would certainly back calls for a new leadership arrangement.”
Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, who works in mental health himself, noted praise given in the report to “outstanding” NSFT staff.
But he added: “The leadership of the trust must redouble their efforts in addressing the problems that have been identified by the CQC.”