Three-way split of mental health trust could be on the cards
The troubled mental health trust in Suffolk and Norfolk could be split into three, we can reveal.
Breaking up the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) into three smaller organisations is an option being actively discussed in crunch talks over its future attended by MPs and the health secretary, it has emerged.
If this happens, it could be split into separate trusts for Norfolk, east Suffolk and west Suffolk.
The possibility of dividing up the trust is among a number of options being looked at by health leaders – alongside special administration, which would see government officials parachuted in to help.
However, the idea has concerned central Suffolk and north Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, who penned a letter warning experts against “knee jerk reactions” to what is happening at the struggling trust.
It was ranked ‘inadequate’ for a third time in November.
“Knee jerk reactions to what is happening at the trust could be very disruptive,” Dr Poulter, who also works as a mental health professional in London, warned.
In his letter, sent to Dr Paul Lelliott of the Care Quality Commission, health secretary Matt Hancock and fellow MPs, Dr Poulter said he was “alarmed” to learn a potential split of the NSFT was being pushed for so quickly.
“It is vitally important to understand and evaluate the scale of challenges facing the trust before making longer term recommendations about the future composition of mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk,” he wrote.
“It would be undesirable, and not in the best interests of patient care, to predetermine the outcome of your work by prematurely pushing for a predetermined end point.”
He also warned that prior to its merger into the NSFT, Suffolk as a standalone mental health trust experienced “significant financial and patient care challenges”.
His remarks come just a week after a cross-party challenge was posed to NHS Improvement (NHSI), criticising a lack of action since the trust’s latest ‘special measures’ rating.
A spokesman for Mr Hancock’s office said ministers and officials in the Department of Health were in close touch with NHSI about the matter.
They said minister of state for health Stephen Hammond was due to meet with local partners and MPs to assess the issues, adding that any changes to the current structure would need to be consulted on.
Both the DoH and NHSI know immediate safety issues need to be addressed while longer term options are considered, they added.
‘We need to deliver services at the standard people deserve’ – NSFT chief executive
NSFT’s chief operating officer, Stuart Richardson, stressed the need for a “culture change” at a recent meeting.
He set out four main challenges facing the trust, including problems with access, waiting lists, a renewed focus on safety and quality, and increased capacity to deliver change.
These were some of the issues identified by inspectors during their November inspection of the NSFT.
Chief executive Antek Lejk said all efforts are being put into making the service better for patients, and ensuring the trust is lifted out of special measures.
“All of our focus is on improving the quality of services and looking at how we can best support our staff to enable us to move out of special measures and build a high-quality service culture,” he added.
“This means that as a trust we need to be able to deliver consistent services of the standard we believe the people we serve deserve, and of which all of our staff can be proud. That is our priority.”