MPs demand action over mental health trust
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MPs have called for swift and decisive action to improve mental health services in our region.
But most believe East Anglia's health bosses should be given one last chance before the Department of Health takes direct control of the ailing Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT).
Last month NSFT was placed into special measures for the third time by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
An investigation into services found some patients were waiting so long to see specialists they were harming themselves or even attempting suicide. In some cases patients were waiting for up to five years for help.
England's chief inspector of hospitals Dr Paul Lelliott said patients 'deserve better'.
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The failings raised the possibility of the trust being placed in a special administration effectively meaning the government would seize control.
That option is supported by Norwich South MP Clive Lewis who said the current service was 'not good enough'.
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He added: 'When I raised the matter of outlying the trust into special administration, I was told one of the reasons administration was not an option for the CQC was that it was 'expensive'. I would argue another wasted six months of failure – for patients, their friends and families, for hundreds of staff members – is the expense we cannot afford.'
But others believe placing NSFT into special administration is not something that should be rushed.
North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said: 'I have every confidence in the trust's recovery plan ... I'm not supporting any possible proposal for the secretary of state to take over the trust by way of appointing commissioners.
'I do believe there is now an argument for the trust to look urgently at bringing mental health services back into the local hospitals.'
Mental health campaigner and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb agreed special administration was not yet the answer. He said: 'We have had so many leaders come and go, the constant turn over has been unhelpful. This has to be a moment when the authorities work out a clear plan, implement it and offer certainty to patients and staff. But we must not do anything in a panic while under pressure.
'Before we go down the route of a special administration I want to be sure it will lead to a better result. I have been concerned about what the CQC has said about how it has worked elsewhere and how it has not necessarily been successful. We have avoid another failed initiative.'
Keith Simpson, MP for Broadland, said the trust was on its last chance.
'I can see the logical of the NHS nationally taking over,' he said. 'But an alternative is we give them one last chance – it seems to be we should try to make the present system work. They have just about run out of road but I'd be prepared to give the trust one more chance to improve.'
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: 'There is understandable upset and worry that NSFT remain in special measures. I am advised that the safety issues that the report identified are being addressed. There is a need for a more local service, for much earlier intervention and for NSFT to work closely with local surgeries, as well as reviewing the structure of the organisation. I'm assured that this work is now in hand and so at this stage there is not a need to place NSFT in special administration.'
But others believe the option should remain on the table.
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: 'I think special administration should be properly looked at as an option – but I think we could go one better by making use of proven outstanding leadership already there in Norfolk.'
And South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon added: 'The organisation will not improve without radical changes and special administration is certainly an option which the government should consider.
'In particular, we need to pay close attention to the views of the staff who are actually delivering services, since they often have a better understanding than anyone else of the nature of the problems and how these can be fixed. I have raised this issue with the health secretary and I believe he will insist on radical changes.'
Health secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock said: 'It's clear that significant action is needed as services need significant improvement.'
The region's other MPs did not respond.