Healthwatch Norfolk and Healthwatch Suffolk note with concern the findings of the Care Quality Commission following its inspection of the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust in October 2014.
Healthwatch recognises that the Trust has not been rated as inadequate across all individual services and that there are differences in the way services are provided in both counties and also between specific premises and teams. We consider however that the failings of the trust to effectively meet the needs of patients and carers must be used as a turning point – everyone’s energies must be focused on improvement from now on.
Commissioners as well as the Trust itself must now take extraordinary steps to deliver the services that people in Norfolk and Suffolk deserve – this is what the reality of being placed in special measures must mean.
On a positive note Healthwatch was pleased to note that the CQC considered NSFT a very caring organisation.
Healthwatch Norfolk, together with Healthwatch Suffolk, is committed to working in partnership to ensure that the service user and carer voice is heard and is at the centre of the improvements that need to be made. The expertise and insight of frontline mental health professionals must also clearly inform the improvement plans.
Much has been said both locally and nationally about how mental health services have suffered from a lack of parity of esteem when compared to physical health services. While there is much truth in that, it cannot be used as an excuse for a failure to provide the support that people need. We will monitor how additional resources are allocated from Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s) to NSFT to improve service provision.
The two Healthwatch have consistently made mental health services one of the top priorities. For example, Healthwatch Norfolk has commissioned a detailed evaluation of in-patient services for children and young people. Healthwatch Suffolk, which has a dedicated Mental Health Focus Group, is nearing the publication of its joint work with the Trust to evaluate patient experiences of accessing the services.
Both Local Healthwatch are signed up to the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat.
Speaking about the CQC report Healthwatch Norfolk Chief Executive, Alex Stewart, said:
“The CQC report makes for troubling reading and it must be taken to heart by the mental health trust and everyone who commissions services from it. The findings confirm what service users and carers have been telling us – and anyone who will listen - for a long time now. We will be watching closely to make sure that the concerns are meaningfully addressed.”
Annie Topping (Chief Executive for Healthwatch Suffolk) said:
“The CQC findings confirm our understanding that the quality of mental health services varies across the two counties. Whilst we hear that some people have a good experience of the Trust, there are many more people that have told us their experience is not positive.”
“It is clear that the Trust must make improvements to move forward and it is essential that this includes working with service users to build trust and demonstrate that they are being heard. We will continue to support the trust in its journey to improve the services, and the ongoing work of the CQC, to ensure that this is made a reality.”