‘Why are we just standing by and letting them do it all again?’ - Anger after MPs discuss future of mental health trust
PUBLISHED: 16:07 06 December 2018 | UPDATED: 07:19 07 December 2018
Archant Norfolk 2017
A Norfolk MP has been left “angry and upset” by a conference call with inspectors overseeing the region’s mental health trust.
A telephone call took place on Thursday morning between MPs from Norfolk and Suffolk, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and NHS Improvement (NHSI) to discuss Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT).
It was called after NSFT was rated inadequate for the third time last week, and an attempt to arrange a face to face meeting by Suffolk Coastal Conservative MP Therese Coffey earlier this week did not come to fruition.
But Norwich South MP, Labour’s Clive Lewis, said the call, which did not involve anyone from NSFT, left him angry that progress was not being made.
He said: “I told them all that local people are going to continue to suffer and die if we don’t take this opportunity to start again at NSFT by putting it into special administration. The report itself said the people who run the trust have already failed on putting past mistakes right. Why are we just standing by and letting them do it again?
“I’m not ashamed to say I got emotional about this during the call. How could I not when so many desperate people have sought my help with getting them and their loved ones decent mental health treatment? When I finished speaking there was just a silence on the end of phone. Is it that these people don’t even care? Or was it that the truth is embarrassing sometimes?”
Norwich North MP, Conservative Chloe Smith, said she was not able to be on the call but was represented by a member of her staff and had spoken directly to health secretary Matt Hancock about the situation.
She said: “I want the secretary of state to look at every available option to force this service to be radically better for my constituents. I know from constituents that some have experienced waiting list problems shown in this report, which is a serious concern alongside inadequate safety.”
But Sir Henry Bellingham, Conservative MP for North West Norfolk, who also was not on the call, said: “I think abolishing the trust should be the absolute last resort. I have every confidence in Stuart Richardson (chief operating officer) and a lot of trust in him. I would be inclined to ensure they have a strong recovery plan, but abolishing is a bit far.”
Health secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock was unable to join in as he had a ministerial commitment.
CQC chiefs said it was unlikely NSFT would be inspected fully next month, but noted that NSFT’s chief executive Antek Lejk anticipates significant progress to be made by late January.
Sandy Martin, Labour MP for Ipswich, said if the trust did not make a rapid turnaround by then he would join calls for its abolition, adding: “I believe we need to have an end-point beyond which we do not allow the trust to continue to fail.
“We cannot just continue to make excuses for the organisation on the basis of vague promises.”
Inspectors from the health watchdog said they will continue to monitor progress at NSFT.
The prospect of Suffolk splitting with Norfolk was also brought up, Mr Martin said, and it is understood NHS Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) in both counties are currently discussing where they want NSFT to go.
MPs were also reassured of regular updates and a face-to-face meeting was earmarked for January.
Chief executive Antek Lejk said the trust is addressing immediate concerns found by the CQC.
He added:“Since receiving the draft CQC report, we have been taking action to address the immediate concerns found by the CQC and listening to our staff and service users to make sure we fully understand the deeper challenges faced by the trust.
“All of our focus is on improving the quality of services and looking at how we can best support our staff to enable us to move out of special measures and build a high quality service culture.
“This means that as a trust we need to be able to deliver consistent services of the standard we believe the people we serve deserve, and of which all of our staff can be proud.
“That is our priority.”