Norfolk and Suffolk mental health services face special measures

The NHS trust running mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk has been rated ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). 

The regulator has recommended that Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) should be placed into special measures, following an inspection in October. 

NSFT, which serves a population of approximately 1.5 million, was rated ‘inadequate’ with regard to whether services were safe and well-led, ‘requires improvement’ with regard to whether services were effective and responsive and ‘good’ with regards to whether services were caring. But its overall rating was inadequate. 

CQC inspectors found that some “unsafe environments” at NSFT did not promote patient dignity; there was insufficient staffing levels to safely meet patient’s needs; inadequate arrangements for medication management and concerns regarding seclusion and restraint practice. All of which the regulator says need to be addressed. 

It was also noted that leadership from ward level and above must be more visible and accessible, as staff told inspectors they did not feel engaged in the improvement agenda or any top level decisions.  

Additionally, the CQC found that a lack of bed availability meant that people did not always receive the right care at the right time and sometimes people were moved, discharged early or managed within an inappropriate service. 

Dr Paul Lelliott, CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals (lead for mental health), said: “We found a number of serious problems when we inspected the services run by NSFT and we have made a recommendation to Monitor that the trust is placed into special measures. We have informed Monitor of the breaches and it will make sure these are appropriately addressed and that progress is monitored through the special measures action plan. 

 “We were concerned about the safety and quality of care provided by some of the trust’s services. We were also struck by the low morale of many of the staff that we interviewed who told us that their voices were not heard by those managing the trust. 

“Some of the management team at NSFT are quite new in post. They must provide the leadership to bring about the urgent improvements needed to ensure care and treatment consistently meets the required standard.” 

Health chiefs at NSFT have vowed to put patients and staff first and focus on improving services following the “critical” CQC report. 

They added that if Monitor agrees with the recommendation that the trust is put in special measures it is likely NSFT will have to make the appointment of an Improvement Director attached to the trust; to develop and be monitored upon the delivery of a Quality Improvement Plan (action plan); and to be “buddied” with another foundation trust. 

NSFT’s chief executive Michael Scott said: “Our priority is to make sure we work with staff to improve the services we provide across Norfolk and Suffolk.

“We are under new management, the new team is bedding in, and there is no complacency on our part about the need to continue to deliver improvements. I would like to assure our patients, staff and our partners that this is a turning point for the Trust and we will continue to do everything possible to address all of the recommendations the CQC has made.”  

(Image: Hellesdon Hospital c. Norwichpride)

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