‘We’re sorry’, says mental health trust boss after inspectors expose failures again

Lynn's Fermoy unit is set to be replaced under Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust plans, but campaigners say much more investment is needed to improve services
Lynn's Fermoy unit is set to be replaced under Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust plans, but campaigners say much more investment is needed to improve services
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The boss of the trust responsible for mental health services in West Norfolk has apologised for its failings following the publication of a damning inspection report.

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) insists urgent action is already being taken after it was put into special measures for the second time last week.

But the mother of one man who died while in the trust’s care says the findings suggest the same failing that led to his death are still there.

And campaigners say the findings show the need for urgent new investment in mental health services.

The latest report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which was published on Friday, rated the trust as “inadequate” and said some of the problems which led to its initial inadequate grading in 2014 had still not been addressed.

Julie Cave, who was appointed as chief executive following the sudden retirement of her predecessor, Michael Scott, last month, said the trust accepted the CQC findings and insisted they would turn things around, despite also claiming the verdict did not mean no improvements had been made.

She said: “Anyone who cares about mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk is going to be disappointed in these results, as we are.

“In short, we have not made enough significant improvements over the past year and that has resulted in this retrograde step in our CQC ratings and in our progress.

“For that we apologise to our staff, to our service users and carers, and to our stakeholders.”

But Ann Higgins, whose son, Christopher, died while in the care of the Fermoy unit in Lynn in 2013, said the new rating showed the trust had not moved forward.

She said: “What I have read about the NSFT going back into special measures is deeply depressing and has taken me back four years when I lost my son at the Fermoy unit.

“It would seem that the same problems are there and not being satisfactorily dealt with.”

She added that she had also considered standing in the forthcoming elections for new governors of the trust, but was unsure whether to do so, because of campaigners’ claims that governors had been ignored by trust managers.

North West Norfolk Labour secretary Jo Rust said she was not surprised by the verdict, which she said showed the need for extra investment.

She said: “While I know how hard the staff in NSFT work, this can’t compensate for an ever-decreasing funding pot.

“The often used phrase “parity of esteem” means nothing in the terms of funding. But the NHS as a whole isn’t being funded to the extent that will meet our needs.”

The inspection verdict means the trust will face close monitoring, and further inspections, to establish whether it is addressing the failures identified in the report.

There have also been calls for the trust’s board of directors to resign.

But Ms Cave said: “We are determined to ensure that our local mental health services continue to improve in what we all recognise as an increasingly demanding environment in the NHS and in social care, with more people suffering mental ill health than ever before, and with more complex needs, while our resources remain under huge pressure.

“Our board will remain focused. That is our responsibility and our commitment to our staff, to our service users and carers.

“We will continue to improve but we will do so with greater pace in order to deliver the quality of service that the people of Norfolk and Suffolk deserve.”