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"We are not surprised" - campaigners say as data shows highest number of unexpected deaths in Norfolk and Suffolk trust

PUBLISHED: 10:59 26 January 2016 | UPDATED: 20:00 26 January 2016

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb. Picture: Mark Bullimore

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb. Picture: Mark Bullimore

Archant Norfolk 2015

The boss of Norfolk and Suffolk's mental health trust has insisted the service is safe after "deeply distressing" data showing the highest number of "unexpected deaths" in the country.

The boss of Norfolk and Suffolk’s mental health trust has insisted the service is safe after “deeply distressing” data showing the highest number of “unexpected deaths” in the country,

Michael Scott, chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust, said it would be a tragedy if people were being scared away from seeking help as a result of the statistics.

Figures show that there were 72 unexpected deaths in Norfolk and Suffolk between April and September last year, higher than any other trust in the country.

Mr Scott said that being a ‘high reporter’ represented a culture of openness where staff felt they could raise issues and therefore quickly put matters right.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save NHS Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk, which was set up just over two years ago, said it had alerted regulators to the statistics.

“NSFT claimed its increase in unexpected deaths was in line with the national average when it was more than five times higher. “We said NSFT was in denial. Today’s figures show we were right,” he said.

He also said the issue had been raised with former mental health minister Norman Lamb when he was in power.

But Mr Lamb said he had never cut a penny of mental health funding when he was a minister. “They know the money is allocated to the CCGs. They are all under this pressure from the system to meet the four hour A&E targets and 18 week standards on referrals. The CCGs trim from mental health to meet the waiting time standards. That is why we have to get the same rights for mental health and physical health.”

He added: “This cannot continue any longer. People are literally dying as a result of the horrific under funding.”

Across the country there were more than 8,000 unexpected deaths involving suicide or suspected suicide reported last year – an increase of 34pc over a three-year period.

The figures come after a leaked report by the government’s taskforce on mental health suggested that about £1.2bn would be needed each year to plug the gaps in treatment for mental health patients.

The report, overseen by the chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, Paul Farmer, found hundreds of lives were lost and hundreds of thousands more blighted each year as a result of gaps in treatment.

Mr Lamb launched a campaign to increase funding for mental health services last year with the backing of more than 200 celebrities.

Labour mental health spokeswoman Luciana Berger said: “This drastic increase in the number of people losing their lives in NHS care is utterly appalling and tragic for all families involved. It must act as a serious wake-up call for ministers.

“At a time of rising demand, the Government has presided over service cuts and staff shortages, with devastating consequences.”

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