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Yes to staff, no to patients

PUBLISHED: 09:32 26 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:05 22 October 2010

MARK NICHOLLS

A mental health trust covering central Norfolk has defended its decision to retain a physiotherapy service for its staff while axing a similar scheme for patients.

A mental health trust covering central Norfolk has defended its decision to retain a physiotherapy service for its staff while axing a similar scheme for patients.

In a bid to cut costs as it endeavours to plug a £5.2m shortfall in funding, Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust has come up with a number of schemes to save money, including the proposed closure of its physiotherapy department at Hellesdon Hospital.

Mental health patients, who relied on physiotherapy at the hospital with a specialist team skilled in dealing with such people, will now have to access general physio services through GPs and primary care trusts where they may face a lengthy wait of around 12 weeks.

Despite the cuts, the mental health trust has decided it is still cost- effective to keep a specialist physiotherapy service for its staff.

A spokesman for the mental health trust said: “Two or three years ago, a part-time physiotherapist was brought in to help improve the lives of its 2,200 staff because it was found that there were quite a few staff that were prevented from returning to work because of muscular-skeletal injuries.

“It was more cost-effective to employ a physiotherapist to help make them better more quickly and get them back to work. They do lifting and there are times they do get injuries and we will continue to have a part-time physiotherapist for that.”

Mental health patients will now access physiotherapy through the same route as other patients, via their GP.

“The trust has taken this step because of financial reasons and cost pressures,” added the spokesman

Other cuts being considered by the trust include reducing the number of hot meals served each day, and ending free car parking and on-site hairdressing services for patients.

While the mental health trust has confirmed it is planning to close its physio service for patients in the next few weeks, primary care trusts say discussions are still continuing over how the physio for mental health patients will continue.

Clive Rennie, acting head of Joint Commissioning (Mental Health) at Norwich PCT, said: “We are currently in discussions with Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust regarding cost savings to both parties. All options to achieve these savings are being considered, of which the physiotherapy service is one identified area. Discussions continue and a firm decision is anticipated by early July.”

The PCT says that as with other clinical services accessed via GP, the waiting time for community-based physiotherapy will depend on the severity of the problem.

In Norwich, the average wait for routine referrals is 12 weeks but those whose need is deemed urgent by their GP will usually be seen within two or three weeks.


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