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Mental health patients in our region are being failed by the government, says MP

PUBLISHED: 01:12 10 December 2015 | UPDATED: 01:12 10 December 2015

MP Clive Lewis in mental health debate

MP Clive Lewis in mental health debate

Archant

Norfolk and Suffolk mental health services would have almost £70m a year more if they were treated in the same way as physical health, the Norwich South MP has claimed.

Labour’s Clive Lewis accused the government of failing patients, families, staff and his community, in the way that it funds services.

He quoted the figure during a half-day debate on general mental health in the House of Commons, where Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said people “deserve a better service”.

The Unison union, which provided the figures to Mr Lewis, says that while the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, which specialises in mental health and wellbeing, has seen funding fall by 5pc since 2010, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Trust has seen a 26pc increase in funding.

According to the mental health trust’s accounts, its turnover was £212.8m last year.

Mr Lewis told MPs: “In the face of severe financial constraints, my trust has been forced to cut services such as early intervention in psychosis, assertive outreach and the specialist homeless teams that were once in place.

“Each and every cut was a false economy. The impact has been catastrophic.

“People in crisis in my constituency have been left without access to a local NHS bed. Instead, they have been sent hundreds of miles from Norwich, separated from their families and care teams, to places as far away as Harrogate, Bradford, London and Brighton.”

He said it was an “affront” to call the extra £600m in mental health in the Autumn Statement an investment. “In reality, it is barely a replacement. Unfortunately, it is too late for those in my constituency who have lost their lives or suffered life-changing injuries because help was not there when they needed it.

“The government has failed patients, failed their families, failed staff and ultimately failed my community,” he added.

Michael Scott, chief executive at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our figures from audited accounts show that over the last five years, less and less money has gone into the mental health services provided by our trust.

“A big investment is needed to reduce this deficit before parity of esteem can become a reality.

“We appreciate that financial pressures affect us all in health and social care, and that funding is not infinite, so collaborative negotiations are key to trying to protect local mental health services for local patients.”

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who also spoke in the debate, said: “For too long some constituents have battled to get the care they need.”

The Conservative MP added: “I am currently helping constituents who have lived with seeing someone they love go down in a spiral – fast, sudden, out of control and they are finding it too hard to know what to do.

“I am concerned about continuity of care, the role of GPs and out-of-county beds.”

North Norfolk’s Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, a former mental health minister who held a debate on the subject last week, said: “If someone has suspected cancer, they have a right to an appointment with a specialist within two weeks of referral by their GP, but a youngster with an eating disorder has no such right, yet we know that their condition can kill.

“That is a scandal and an outrage and it must change. There must be equality of access.”

Do you have a story about mental health services? Email investigations editor David Powles at david.powles@archant.co.uk

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