Hundreds of retired mental health workers contacted over staffing crisis

Diane Hull, chief nurse at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT). Photo: NSFT

Diane Hull, chief nurse at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT). Photo: NSFT - Credit: NSFT

Hundreds of retired mental health workers have been written to with pleas to return to work as staffing issues and spiralling demand continues to take a toll on the region.

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) is struggling from a combination of huge demands on its services - with more young people in Norfolk seeking mental health support than anywhere else in the country - and problems recruiting and retaining staff.

This has led to long waits for treatment and patients having to be cared for out of the area, as the Trust routinely misses its targets.

At a meeting of its board of directors, members were told the recruitment situation had driven bosses to write to former workers in an effort to bring them back to the profession - among a variety of other efforts to drive up recruitment.

Diane Hull, chief nurse at NSFT, told the board: "Three hundred letters asking people who have recently retired or left to consider coming back have been sent out - there is a lot of work happening.

"I also think we need to be focussing on schools and getting people interested in nursing as a career."

Stuart Richardson, NSFT's chief executive, told the board the Trust was dealing with a "massive increase in people wanting and needing our services". 

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He added: "Our colleagues are very, very tired and it is a very difficult time to be at work."

In his report to the board, he wrote: "We all continue to be impacted by the effects of the pandemic and we are still reporting extremely high-level referrals to all our services.

"In Norfolk we have the highest number of young people under the age of 18 being referred for support, and in Suffolk the third highest in the country."

The board also heard that the demand had seen the Trust continue to lean on out of area placements - with September seeing a rise in the number of people needing to be sent elsewhere in the country for their treatment.

September also saw fewer than 66pc of routine patients assessed within the target period of 28 days.

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