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Watchdog’s findings of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust hailed as a step in right direction by chiefs

PUBLISHED: 09:57 15 October 2016

Hellesdon Hospital, the headquarters of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

Hellesdon Hospital, the headquarters of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

Archant © 2012

Mental health patients and their families should be reassured that the organisation tasked with looking after them is improving after several years of failings, according to managers.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has been lifted out of “special measures” after inspectors from health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found improvements nearly two years since their previous visit.

Yesterday the CQC rated the trust as “requires improvement” – enough to persuade regulator NHS Improvement to remove the special measures imposed in February 2015.

However, the safety of the trust’s care remained rated as ‘inadequate’ after the CQC’s inspectors highlighted numerous issues such as:

The high number of deaths at the trust;

Insufficient staffing levels at inpatient units and in community teams;

Potential risks to patients on wards;

A lack of available beds.

But NSFT chief executive Michael Scott told this newspaper a lot “had been fixed since the inspection in July” – though he added there was still much work to be done to bring the trust’s rating up another notch.

“I’m really pleased for our staff and our patients because it removes the label of special measures,” he said.

“Staff have worked very hard to achieve this. Patients can be reassured by the CQC so it’s good news for Norfolk and Suffolk.”

But campaigners, including MPs from the region, voiced concern at the safety of the care, highlighted as inadequate by the CQC.

The inspectors found plans to address potential ligature (a device used for binding or tying something tightly) risks were not good enough; the mixed-sex accommodation did not meet guidance; risk assessments were not in place, higher-than-expected levels of face-down restraint in acute and learning disability services; and problems with the electronic patient record system.

Mr Scott said: “The safety issues in the physical environment reflect the under-funding of our buildings. And it includes things like corridors being curved at the end which limits observation so we will put in CCTV.”

Jane Sayer, director of nursing, quality, and patient safety, added the rate of ligature-related incidents was 0.19 per 1,000 bed days and that staff managed the risks well.

The trust has commissioned a review of beds across its patch and is working with supplier CSC to fix problems with the electronic patient record system, which has caused problems for staff during its introduction.

Mr Scott added the staffing problem was a national issue and said the CQC had given the trust a “vote of confidence” in the direction it was heading. He said he hoped the trust would be rated as ‘good’ the next time the CQC visited, which is likely to be in the next 12-18 months.

Have you got a mental health story? Contact our health correspondent by emailing nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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