Troubled mental health trust’s watchdog warning is ‘only the tip of the iceberg’
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has been warned by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that it must improve.
The CQC’s latest report into the trust, which serves a population of just over 1.6 million people, rated its services ‘inadequate’ and inspectors have served it with a warning notice. The trust is in special measures for the fourth time in a decade.
Commenting on the report’s release, Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of SANE, said: “It beggars belief that serial failures at this trust have persisted for more than a decade since Norfolk and Suffolk trusts merged. This followed a damning report that raised the same concerns about management that the CQC highlighted.
“The only significant measures that have taken place since then appear to have been budget cuts of more than £40 million a year, leading to the loss of as much as a third of its doctors, as well as many other clinical and support staff.
“This has led to the scandalous practice of sending patients out of area for inpatient treatment, inconsistent care and intolerably long waits for people in desperate need of help. It is no exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of patients living, or even dying, in acute distress while they wait for treatment.
“This is only the tip of the iceberg. We know of many other trusts equally unable to provide safe care and treatment.”
Inspectors noted progress and positive changes in some areas and trust leaders have pledged to build on the progress to improve services.
Stuart Richardson, Chief Executive Officer at NSFT, said: “We fully accept the areas that the CQC say need to improve. The people of Norfolk and Suffolk deserve good quality mental health services and we are committed to achieving this. People have worked tirelessly to keep services open during the pandemic and I want to thank all my colleagues for their hard work.”
Campaigners and MPs are now calling for the Department of Health to intervene in the running of the troubled mental health trust.
Services cut to the bone
In 2018, SANE called on the Secretary of State to intervene after the CQC decided to keep the trust in special measures.
Problems at NSFT have existed long before the pandemic. Services were already denuded and cut to the bone.
The trust is experiencing a rise in demand, with patients untreated during the pandemic now coming forward, often in much more acute states of mental ill-health, at a time when staff are already overstretched.
But problems clearly exist as well with a lack of funding and resources. This has led to years of unnecessary misery for both patients and families, who deserve better.
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust – Care Quality Commission