Urgent action needed after inspection finds Hellesdon Hospital is failing patients

Hellesdon - Hellesdon Hospital. Photo: Bill Smith

Hellesdon - Hellesdon Hospital. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2012

Mental health chiefs have been ordered to take urgent action to improve services after an unannounced inspection found that Hellesdon Hospital was failing in two key areas.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), which has reduced its workforce by around 400 and is slashing bed numbers by 20pc as part of a redesign of services, has been told to submit an action plan by the end of the week following concerns from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Inspectors from the health watchdog, who visited Hellesdon Hospital in Norwich last month, said that the major re-organisation of the NHS trust had 'adversely affected' patient care for community and inpatient services.

A Norfolk MP and health minister last night called on NSFT to urgently rectify the failings of the trust after it emerged that patients were waiting up to two months for community mental health assessments.

The CQC inspected five areas on January 8 and 9 and found that the organisation was failing in the 'care and welfare of people who use services' and 'respecting and involving people who use services.'

Inspectors said, in some cases, patients were not being afforded proper respect of their privacy, dignity and independence.

The report stated: 'People's needs were not always assessed in a timely way. We found that those people who required urgent care and treatment were assessed promptly. However, people whose needs were less urgent waited disproportionately, up to two months to be fully assessed by the community service. Since the introduction of new arrangements the number of people that community based teams provided with assessment, care and treatment at any one time had increased rapidly. This increase constrained the teams' capacity to meet people's needs.'

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The report added: 'We found that the simultaneous major re-organisation of both community and hospital-based services had adversely affected direct patient care in both areas.'

'Care and treatment was not always planned and delivered in a way that ensured people's safety and welfare.'

The CQC inspectors also said they saw examples of people's privacy and dignity not always being fully protected by staff. They said, while a female ward was 'calm', a male ward was 'very noisy and oppressive at times'.

And they said: 'Two people told us that they did not have any clean clothes to change into. Both these people looked dishevelled. One said that they had asked staff to arrange for clothes to be collected from their home.'

North Norfolk MP and health minister Norman Lamb said: 'It is now critical that the trust responds with a genuine sense of urgency to rectify the concerns raised by the CQC.'

'I am particular concerned at the suggestion that people are spending longer in hospital than is necessary. Not only is it important to free up beds for those who need them most, but most people with mental health problems are better-off being looked after properly in the community. Some people waited up to two months to be assessed by the community service, and this is simply not acceptable.

'It is important to recognise that the CQC also found examples of excellent care at Hellesdon. However, in some cases services have not been good enough, and this must be addressed urgently.'

The trust, which launched a radical redesign of services two years ago to reduce its budget by 20pc by 2016, was found to be meeting standards in the way it cooperates with other providers, the way it handles complaints, and safeguards people who use services from abuse.

No one was available for comment from NSFT last night.

What are your experiences of mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk? Email adam.gretton@archant.co.uk

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