I know from my direct work with people with mental ill health over the years how services have not really ever met demand. A resource issue of course. The savage cuts our Mental Health services are facing started with the idea of a 'merger' several years ago. The idea was to share services and save money. I am not against this, but what was missing then and is missing now is listening to users, their families and carers and a whole host of other agencies. What is also missing now are the words 'Mental Health' from the title of the organisation itself, which I find quite shocking. I am in no doubt that we are allowing the most vulnerable to fall through the cracks. I believe we are undermining the amazing professionals who work in our mental health services. There is a vital role for the voluntary and community sector in this area of work. It should though be supplementary and complimentary. It should not be instead of.This is why with colleagues I decided to write this open letter.
Re: Patients and staff put at risk in Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust
There is a growing concern in each of our respective constituencies that mental health care services across Norfolk and Suffolk have reached melting point.
Recent experience has shown the tragic consequences that can occur when senior health managers place too much emphasis on meeting financial targets (set out by Monitor - the NHS Financial regulator). All to often it is at the expense of patient care.
Many Trust staff feel there are now, as a consequence of the 20% budget reduction imposed by the government, unacceptable risks playing out in the region's mental health services.
We enclose quotes from from some of the mental health workers who have brought these matters to our attention.
1. "I've been a mental health nurse at the Trust for 15 years. In that time I've never felt as concerned for my patients and the lack of care I can provide for them. What the Trust says about our ability to provide safe care for patients in the face of these cuts, and the reality on the ground is a nonsense."
2. "On a regular basis I've seen people with genuine needs turned away only to return when they are in crisis. The impact this has on them, their treatment and their families is appalling.It's heart-breaking for me and my colleagues to see people and know they'll not get the help they need. We live in fear there will be a death that we could have prevented were it not for the recent cuts. People need to realise that Trust staff have been papering over the cracks for years by going the extra mile. But there are now so few of us, with so few resources, that's no longer possible. I'm terrified that when things inevitably go wrong, me and my colleagues will be scapegoated for doing our best in the circumstances we have been forced in to."
3. "I'm concerned that at some point the public will be endangered too. It really does feel like nothing more than a matter of time."
For months now mental health staff have warned the cuts to the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust would have devastating consequences.
The Coalition Government's 20% funding cut over 4 years has translated into 400 nurses, social workers, psychologists, support workers and occupational therapist posts being axed.
New figures show that 38 serious incidents have been reported to the foundation trust in the five months since April. Of this figure 20 related to the deaths of patients who had used the Trust's services in the past 6 months. We have been informed this number continues to rise.
Staff at the Trust report living in fear of being scapegoated and disciplined as a result of system failures that they themselves have been warning about for the past 18 months. Staff tell us the internal whistle blowing systems and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) does not leave them feeling that they will be adequately protected.
They also tell us it is increasingly difficult to make clinical decisions based on need and the best interests of patients when resources and funding are so scarce.
This is on top of a moratorium on new staff, plus very limited cover for maternity or long term sickness leave, when demand for these services is increasing.
It's high time the politicians responsible for these cuts - politicians like Norman Lamb MP, Simon Wright MP, Chloe Smith MP, Therese Coffey MP, Norman Lamb MP, Richard Bacon MP and Tim Yeo MP - explained their actions to the public. Coalition politicians tell you the NHS hasn't been cut and is safe in their hands but when you ask staff at the sharp end they will tell you a different story.
We call on the Coalition government to reverse the cuts. For too long Norman Lamb, the Care Minister responsible for these cuts, has been allowed to pass the blame onto the Trust staff.
It is he and his fellow Coalition MPs making the cuts and it's they who should ultimately hang their heads in shame.
Clive Lewis - Labour Parliamentary Candidate - Norwich South
Jess Asato - Labour Parliamentary Candidate - Norwich North
Bob Blizzard - Labour Parliamentary Candidate - Waveney
Denise Burke - Labour Parliamentary Candidate - North Norfolk
Deborah Sacks - Labour Parliamentary Candidate - South Norfolk
Jane Basham - Labour Parliamentary Candidate - South Suffolk
Russell Whiting - Labour Parliamentary Candidate - Suffolk Costal