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King's Lynn mental health unit work '£400k over budget', trust admits

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A multi-million pound project to develop a new mental health in-patient is £400,000 over budget.

Officials say the overspend on the new Samphire Ward at Chatterton House is largely due to "unforeseen issues" with the existing building.

The project to develop a new mental health in-patient unit at Chatterton House in Lynn is £400,000 over budget
The project to develop a new mental health in-patient unit at Chatterton House in Lynn is £400,000 over budget

But campaigners claim the affair, along with numerous other problems, proved the management of the area's mental health trust is still not up to the job.

Details of the overspend emerged in a report to the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's (NSFT) board, which met on Thursday.

The trust secured £4 million of funding from NHS England to develop a new 16-bed unit, replacing the existing facility at the Fermoy Unit of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, two years ago.

But the report said several problems had emerged during the building programme, including the requirement for steel beams to support the new structures because of a lack of foundations under the existing external walls.

New flooring, as well as additional levels of radon gas protection were also required, while additional work requests from staff incurred extra costs of £124,000.

And the document also revealed that trust bosses were not told of the overspend at the time the project was expected to go over its budget in February.

It said: "While the requirement for approving increases in capital budgets was reconfirmed at the November board, the subsequent communication to all capital project managers was not clear."

The report said "a lack of clear ownership, significant workloads pressures and previously accepted historical practices" were to blame for the overspend not being brought to the attention of directors earlier.

But the Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Crisis campaign group says the issue is one of many which shows the scale of the continuing crisis facing the trust, which was put into special measures for the third time in four years last November.

The group posted a number of highly critical tweets during the board meeting. On the Samphire ward issue, they claimed NSFT's management "Couldn't run a bath."

But the trust said the new unit was still on course to open this summer. Patients are still being treated at the Fermoy unit until the new facility is available.

A spokesman said the project would consolidate acute services on one site.

He added: “The project to transform and improve mental healthcare in west Norfolk includes refurbishing existing outpatient facilities and expanding the range of services available to support patients within the community.

“Once complete, it will integrate all adult mental health services in King’s Lynn onto the site of Chatterton House, making them easier to access."

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