Inspectors rate Norfolk and Suffolk’s mental health services as ‘worst in country’

The region’s mental health trust has been rated as the ‘worst mental health trust in the country’ after being downgraded to an overall rating of ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission.

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has been put under special measures for the fourth time in the last decade.

The trust was told that it must take action to bring its services into line with 109 legal requirements, related to seven services.

Caroline Aldridge with her book ‘He Died Waiting’

The Care Quality Commission published its report, stating: “Severe deterioration was found on the Trust’s inpatient ward for children and young people experiencing an acute mental health disorder, which was previously rated outstanding.”

Three services fell short of the standards that were expected to be met, including: child and adolescent mental health (CAMHS) ward, community-based mental health services for working age adults and acute wards for working age adults and psychiatric intensive care.

Young people and careers who were spoken to by inspectors said that it was a frustrating and lengthy process accessing the service.

While many people told the CQC that staff were and always polite and interested in young people’s well-being and were praised for their efforts, another person claimed that they ‘didn’t have my well-being at heart’.

Tim Aldridge died in 2014. His Mother, Caroline Aldridge, said that her son “ended up detained in a psychiatric hospital, and that experience absolutely terrified him, and that set the tone for how he felt about mental health services for the rest of his life”.

Mrs Aldridge believes he was let down by the services in Norfolk, as he waited many weeks for an appointment and claims that could have saved his life. 

CQC Head of Inspections for mental health and community services, Craig Howarth, said: “Although the quality and safety of patient care in most of the services are inspected at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation had deteriorated since our previous inspection.”

Reports show that over the past four years around 60% of the NSFT services have been rated as requiring improvements or inadequate.

Labour group spokesperson for community health and well-being, Emma Corlett, stated: “Staff are doing their best in a broken system. But enough is enough.”

With improvement being seen in the care that patients received, there was more deterioration in the quality and safety of patients, in some situations exposing patients to risk of harm.

People and Communities Select Committee Conservative member, Mark Kiddle-Morris, stated: “I felt disappointed. We will need to look after our inhabitancy with mental health as a council.”

Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust have said they are already taking action to improve their services including, “increasing support and training for our staff”.

Stuart Richardson, Chief Executive Officer at NSFT, said he was ‘deeply sorry’ and stated: “We fully accept the areas that the CQC say need to improve.”

The trust has been threatened with enforcement action if measures are not improved.

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