Psychosis patients in Norfolk and Suffolk not treated fast enough
- Credit: Newscast Online
An MP has hit out at the local NHS for failing to treat patients with a serious mental health illness quickly enough.
Under new rules that came into effect in April, more than half of people aged 14-65 referred for treatment for first-episode psychosis should be given a care package within two weeks.
But the most recent figures show Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), which treats patients in the region, is not hitting the target.
Meanwhile, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), who are responsible for funding the treatment, are only paying NSFT for patients aged between 14-35 to receive the service.
MP for North Norfolk Norman Lamb, a former health minister, described the situation as 'nothing short of scandalous'.
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And NSFT chief executive Michael Scott expressed concern about the 'insufficient funds' allocated to his organisation by the CCGs. However, a spokesman for the CCGs said they had waited for national guidance to be published before designing a service that would meet the new target.
Psychosis is a medical term used to describe hearing or seeing things that are not there, or holding delusional beliefs.
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The new target, brought in by Mr Lamb during his time as care minister between 2012-15, aims to prevent patients from relapsing, and needing hospital treatment or becoming suicidal.
But NSFT has not been given enough money to treat 14- to 65-year- olds quickly enough to hit the target, and in May (the most recent figure available) it only set up care packages in two weeks for 44pc of patients, who were aged between 14-35.
Mr Lamb said: 'It would rightly be seen as a national scandal if the NHS failed to provide the evidence-based treatment required in cancer, so why is it acceptable for people suffering psychosis?
'The negligent approach to delivering the new standards in mental health should be met with similar outrage.
'These new standards would change people's lives and lead to significant savings for the NHS and benefits system.
'We know that for every £1 invested you can save £15 – yet in so many areas, they are falling short.
'It would be horrific and intolerable if this opportunity was missed.'
However, the CCGs said the guidance, which sets out definitive detail for patient access time, the package of care, and required workforce, was only published in May.
A spokesman said it was responsible to wait for this guidance to be issued before planning and working with NSFT.
The CCGs hope to have the full service funded and developed to meet the target by spring 2017, the spokesman added.
What is psychosis?
Psychosis is not a condition itself – but it is triggered by other conditions.
The two main symptoms of psychosis are hallucinations (where a person hears, sees and, in some cases, feels, smells or tastes things that are not there) and delusions (where a person believes things that, when examined rationally, are obviously untrue – for example, thinking your next- door neighbour is planning to kill you). The combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking can often severely disrupt perception, thinking, emotion, and behaviour.
Experiencing the symptoms of psychosis is often referred to as having a psychotic episode. Conditions that can trigger psychosis include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression. There is treatment available for psychosis such as antipsychotic medication and cognitive behavioural therapy.
Work ongoing to design service required for target
The chief executive of the region's mental health trust (NSFT) said he was 'concerned at the insufficient funds allocated' towards hitting the target (known as EIP).
Michael Scott said the trust is accepting nearly 55pc more people for EIP treatment than it is currently paid by CCGs.
He said the trust was in discussions with the CCGs over staffing and funding levels required to meet the EIP target.
'We are concerned that currently insufficient funds have been allocated to allow us to meet this important target,' Mr Scott said.
'In the meantime the trust has been developing plans for how we could roll out an expanded service.'
He said work was already under way to ensure the trust was prepared to deliver the extended service on commissioning and that the trust was part of a working group with the CCGs focusing on the matter.
'We have a clinician on the regional implementation group which is focusing on rolling out the extended EIP services across East Anglia, and we have worked hard to undertake the new training in order to meet the new requirements,' Mr Scott added.
People aged under 14 or over 35 who present with suspected first episode of psychosis are still seen by the trust's mental health experts, who can be advised by the EIP teams.
There are three EIP teams in Norfolk and Waveney (in west Norfolk, central Norfolk and in Great Yarmouth), while in Suffolk EIP services are offered through community based integrated delivery teams. If you are experiencing psychotic episodes you should see your GP immediately.