The region’s mental health trust is facing calls for it to be disbanded after a damning report condemned it as the worst in the country.
The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has been downgraded to a rating of ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission – the fourth time in a decade that it has had special measures imposed on it.
Trust bosses have vowed that this time things will be different and that its focus is squarely on improving the care people in the two counties receive and making it a better place for people to work.
However, campaigners say the Trust is not fit for purpose and has called for it to be dismantled and replaced with two separate organisations, one to serve each county.
The Trust was visited by CQC inspectors between November 2 and December 29 last year – its first inspection since January 2020, when it showed some improvement.
Officials found many of the front-line staff to be hard-working, caring and desperately keen to make a difference.
But a catalog of failings have seen the trust downgraded once more. These include:
- Safe levels of staff not being consistently
- Ligature points not being removed in a timely manner
- Waiting lists not being managed
- Staff not being provided with sufficient training or senior supervision
- Management not ensuring that lessons were learned from patient incidents and deaths.
The report is the latest blow to the troubled organisation, which was established in 2012 following a merger between two NHS trusts, one covering Norfolk and Waveney and the other covering the rest of Suffolk.
Over the years, the NSFT has since struggled to address a number of issues, with concerns repeatedly raised about a lack of available beds – which has seen many patients taken outside the region for care – and long waiting lists for treatment.
As well as being placed in special measures four times, the Trust has also been through five chief executives in the last ten years.
The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk was launched only one year after the Trust was set up, amid fears over its performance.
It says that over the years many lives have been lost to suicide as a result of failings on the Trust’s part.
A spokesman for the campaign said action needed to be taken immediately, following the latest report.
“We are demanding that NHS England and Improvement take immediate and decisive action to end this deaths crisis.
“We are calling for the break-up of this dysfunctional Trust.
“We are pleased that the CQC has taken determining action on the failed mental health trust for Norfolk and Suffolk, however, it is not enough and there are serious questions for NHS England and Improvement and the local commissioners who have allowed this dire situation to continue .
“The decision is too late for many who have lost their loves and the bereaved families who have lost loved ones.
“Our campaign has consistently raised concerns over the last nine years but nothing seems to improve. NSFT has broken its promises time and time again and has failed to deliver a safe and effective service.
“The people of Norfolk and Suffolk deserve better.”
Bosses at the Trust say they accept the raised concerns in the inspection and are determined to turn things around, this time.
Stuart Richardson, chief executive, said: “We fully accept the findings of the report and know we need to improve and do so quickly.
“Our focus has to be on how we make sure we meet the requirements of the CQC’s action plan and make continuous improvements.
“I absolutely apologise to the staff who feel they have not been given the tools they need to do their jobs and it is clear we have not delivered the people of Norfolk and Suffolk the level of care they deserve – and for that we are sorry. “
Zoe Billingham, the Trust’s new chairman, said: “NSFT wants to provide quality mental health care specialist.
“Where we have made successful improvements, this has been in partnership with patients, services users and of course our staff – and we must now replicate this approach in all areas.
“We are determined to make the required changes with pace and focus.”
Alex Stewart. chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk, said: “We are sad to hear the news of the CQC rating. The staff at NSFT are working incredibly hard caring for and treating patients and we understand this will be upsetting for those who work at the sharp end of patient care.
“It is encouraging that senior figures in the Trust are acknowledging publicly there is work to do and moving forwards. Healthwatch Norfok will be working constructively with the Trust and patients to help with this.”
Timeline of turmoil
The NSFT has endured turbulent times in the past decade, with care regulators placing it in special measures on four separate occasions…
The Trust is formed by a merger of Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust with Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust
“Radical redesign” of mental health services is announced – it leads to the loss of 400 jobs and a 20pc reduction in bed numbers
Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk launches
Out-of-area placements increase by 750pc and the Trust sets a four month deadline to end the practice
Michael Scott succeeds Aidan Thomas as Trust CEO
Trust becomes the first in the country to be placed into special measures
It is taken out of special measures, but still requires improvement
Damning report from Healthwatch Norfolk lays bare the grievances of 680 patients
Trust enters special measures for the second time and private provider Mundesley Hospital is closed down
Chief executive Michael Scott leaves with immediate effect
Private provider Ashcroft Center in Wicklewood, a specialist unit for women’s mental health, closes down
A further 36 beds are lost, with bosses blaming staffing levels and unsafe environments
Trust sets itself a target of 2021 to end all out of area places
Antek Lejk appointed chief executive, a role he holds until March 2019
Placed into special measures for a third time
Jonathan Warren, then improvement director, is appointed chief executive.
Jonathan Warren announces his intention to retire in March 2021
Mason Fitzgerald is appointed as the Trust’s new chief executive and is due to start at the end of March 2021
“Significant improvements” acknowledged by the CQC, but Trust’s rating does not change
Mason Fitzgerald withdraws his application after claims he had listed qualifications he did not possess. Stuart Richardson is announced as his successor.
Stuart Richardson officially starts his role of chief executive
CQC inspectors begin an assessment of Trust services, which will last two months
The CQC issues a formal warning notice to the Trust ahead of its results being published
April 28, 2022
The Trust is downgraded by the CQC to inadequate, with it remaining in special measures