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Staff set to launch campaign to save mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 06:30 13 November 2013

Former Waveney MP, Bob Blizzard speaking at a rally to sending a strong message to the Government and the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust to think again on proposals for cuts to local mental health care services. 

Picture: James Bass

Former Waveney MP, Bob Blizzard speaking at a rally to sending a strong message to the Government and the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust to think again on proposals for cuts to local mental health care services. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

Front-line mental health workers are set to launch a fight to save local services in light of ongoing plans to cut staff and bed numbers.

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk will be launched in Norwich later this month to call for action to improve community support and address the shortage of acute psychiatric beds at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT).

The mental health trust is in the process of reducing its budget by 20pc by 2016 and cutting the number of inpatient beds by 20pc with a view to offering more community focussed care.

However, unions Unison and Unite and local groups including the Norfolk Peoples Assembly, Norfolk Coalition Against the Cuts, Equal Lives, North Norfolk Trades Council and Norfolk Social Work Action Network have already backed the new campaign.

An open meeting will be held on Monday, November 25 from 7pm at the Vauxhall Centre in Johnson Place, Norwich, which will be the first organising meeting of the mental health services campaign.

Organisers said mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk are in “severe crisis” with a rise in suicide rates and a reduction in services at a time when there is great demand for mental health services.

Terry Skyrme, one of the organisers of the campaign who works for the NSFT Crisis Team, said wards were operating at over 100pc capacity and the Crisis Resolution Home Treatment team was operating at 25pc below capacity. He added that the cuts in mental health services came at a time when voluntary sector organisations and charities such as Mind, Julian Support and Rethink had reduced funding.

He said: “As professionals, we are initiating this campaign because we are no longer prepared to remain silent any longer; we do not want to find ourselves in a Mid Staffs situation - whereby standards of care sink to an unacceptable level - without our having spoken out. Therefore we want to launch a campaign to save our mental health service – a service which at times is literally a matter of life and death. Suicides can be reduced by effective, well-resourced mental health services, and the creation of emergency respite care.”

As previously reported, NSFT received 58 reports of unexpected deaths of mental health patients across Norfolk and Suffolk, between April and October. For the whole of 2012/12, there were 88 unexpected deaths.

The meeting comes after the NHS trust announced last week that 79 members of staff who had been offered voluntary redundancy or redundancy could apply for existing and new roles following additional investment by local Clinical Commissioning Groups

For more information, call 01263 825967 or email WSallyL@aol.com

Have you been affected by mental health changes in Norfolk? Contact health correspondent Adam Gretton on 01603 772419 or email adam.gretton@archant.co.uk

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