Students’ union calls for better funding for Norfolk mental health

UEA - University of East Anglia.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

UEA - University of East Anglia.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Students searching for mental health help on the NHS could graduate by the time they are offered an appointment.

Georgina Burchell, welfare, community and diversity officer at UEA Students' Union. Photo: UEASU

Georgina Burchell, welfare, community and diversity officer at UEA Students' Union. Photo: UEASU - Credit: UEASU

That was the claim made as questions were raised over whose responsibility students' mental health is, after a string of deaths in Norwich.

When Theo Brennan Hulme, a first-year literature, drama and creative writing student, was found dead in his campus room at the University of East Anglia (UEA) earlier this month it followed another three student deaths in the preceding 10 months.

A spotlight was put on support on campus, with students launching petition and millions of pounds invested to bolster services.

But now, attention has turned to the NHS, as the UEA Students' Union called on the university to lobby for better funding for Norfolk's mental health trust.

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Georgina Burchell, the student union's welfare, community and diversity officer, said: 'We're working with UEA to ensure that on campus support is the best it can be but we know the problems for those seeking support don't end there. Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust is often not able to provide for those with complex needs as they're not resourced properly to deal with the rising number of people requiring their support.'

The students' union released a manifesto, which said the organisation - which represents the UEA's 17,000 students - was 'deeply concerned about the state of NHS provision in Norfolk', where the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) has been rated as inadequate three times.

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Union officials told of students being placed on waiting lists for help which were months long, and their report said: 'It's clear to us that NSFT needs to be better and this should be clear to UEA too.'

The students' union wanted to see:

• UEA senior leaders calling for better public reporting on funding for trusts;

• More funding for NHS mental health services, and;

• Active lobbying for improvements at NSFT, including to the health secretary Matt Hancock.

Miss Burchell added: 'We believe that UEA will do the right thing now and recognise its responsibility to provide for students on campus but there's only so much the university can and should do.

'We're not blaming those committed staff in the trust – we know that they are often doing all they can. What we're doing is calling on UEA and those who make decisions to make sure they are properly resourcing this important area of the NHS so that it functions for those people who need it.'

Vice chancellor Professor David Richardson promised an extra £250,000 of funding into student support.

He said: 'What we can do, what we must do, what we are focused on doing is responding to give the students and staff in our community the support and assistance they need on a whole-institution basis. As a parent myself, I know how much anxiety and worry this causes for everyone.'

*If you need support you can call the Samaritans helpline number 116123.

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