Mental health services at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust on road to recovery, says care minister


Norman Lamb MP. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The government's care minister said he believed mental health services in Norfolk were on the road to recovery after meeting with the bosses of an under-scrutiny NHS trust.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has come under fire from campaigners and unions over the last year over concerns about pressure on inpatient and community services.

However, Norman Lamb, the minister responsible for mental health services and North Norfolk MP, said he had been assured that NSFT chiefs were working hard to address the pressure on beds, which has seen some patients being sent more than 200 miles away because none were available locally. Mr Lamb, who met with new chief executive Michael Scott, Clinical Commissioning Groups, and representatives from Unison yesterday at Hellesdon Hospital, said he believed that the NHS trust was tackling the issues surrounding inpatient beds and high community caseloads. He added that there was a recognition that staff morale needed to rebuilt.

'One of the things I have been struck by is a dramatic reduction in out-of-area beds in the last five weeks. It is about managing beds better and ensuring people are discharged on time and that requires good liaison with housing authorities. There is a long way to go and it is a very similar situation to the ambulance trust. Both organisations now have new experienced leaders in place and gives us an opportunity to ensure services are up to the necessary standard,' he said.

Mr Lamb added that the government was aiming to bring in new targets and payment by results methods next year to ensure mental health trusts received a fairer share of NHS funds.

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Carol Briggs, joint branch secretary of the NSFT Unison branch, said: 'Although discussions were open and honest, we remain unconvinced at how words are going to turn into action and most importantly much needed additional resources. Until the inequality of funding for mental health services compared to physical health services is addressed, it is going to be exceptionally difficult to make the improvements that are needed.'

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