Norfolk and Suffolk: Improvement at the once-named "worst" mental health trust in the nation

generic illustration of a doctor walking down a hallway

Inspectors report that a mental health trust that was previously ranked as the worst in the nation has significantly improved.

In 2021, a warning notice was issued to the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) after a report revealed that patients were exposed to risks of harm.

Young people's wards and crisis services, according to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), have improved.

A probe into "institutional failings" at the trust, according to Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, is still required.

In Norfolk and Suffolk, the NSFT offers care and support for those with mental health issues who have learning difficulties.

The NSFT was the only mental health trust included in the NHS's improvement regime in 2021 that had received an inadequate rating, been placed in special measures, and failed to meet standards.

Following an inspection conducted between September and November 2022, the CQC changed the trust rating from "inadequate" to "requires improvement.".

The report, which was made public on Friday, gave the trust a "good" rating for its compassion and a "needs improvement" rating for its ability to respond to the needs of others.

The quality and safety of care given to patients did, however, decline in "a small number of areas," according to inspectors.

While the trust still needs to do more to consistently provide the high standards of care and treatment that people have a right to expect, Jane Ray, CQC deputy director of operations, said: "It's made welcome progress - even at what continues to be a difficult time for the NHS.

"The trust now needs to make sure that the advancements it has made don't reverse, and it needs to apply its dedication to improvement to areas where people still aren't receiving the standards they have a right to expect. ".

The report "serves as a stepping-stone to get to where we want to be as an organization - consistently delivering excellent care," said Stuart Richardson, chief executive of the NSFT. He expressed his appreciation for the report.

He declared, "We are not complacent, and we must keep advancing at a rate that will enable us to consistently provide high-quality care.

The organization will "focus on improving quality, safety, and the experiences of the people who use our services as well as our staff," according to Zo Billingham, who serves as the trust's board chair. ".

The cause of death for Eliot Harris, seen here when he was younger, could not be established by a pathologist
During his treatment at Great Yarmouth's NSFT Northgate Hospital, 48-year-old Eliot Harris passed away.

Sally Harris urged the trust to show that changes had been made after her son Eliot, 48, passed away at Great Yarmouth's Northgate Hospital in April 2020.

Mr. Harris, a patient with schizophrenia who had been admitted for failing to take his medication, was discovered unconscious in a private ward and passed away 30 minutes later.

An inquest into his death revealed that three employees were later fired for fabricating observation records on the night he passed away.

Sally Harris photographed in her home
Staff members were "robotic and uncaring," according to Sally Harris, whose son Eliot died while receiving care from NSFT.

Mrs. Harris expressed to the BBC her "absolutely appalled" reaction to the "robotic and uncaring" treatment her son had received from staff.

She remarked that Eliot "needed a little extra care, but was clever and artistic.".

She expressed her hope that they would put him back on his medication so he could resume functioning.

"The idea that someone could be so dishonest horrifies me. They were signing without checking people and falsifying records. or convincing others to sign something they hadn't even verified. It was quite horrible. ".

In the upcoming month, a report on deaths at the trust is scheduled for publication.

Generic image of doctors walking in corridor
A year after receiving a warning notice, the NSFT was found to have improved according to a CQC inspection.

There is still work to be done, and the trust will continue to receive intensive and targeted assistance as part of the recovery support programme, according to a NHS East of England spokesperson who called the progress at NSFT "encouraging.". " .

It is encouraging that the children and adolescent units and the services for those experiencing a mental health crisis have seen such significant improvements. The trust has failed to give patients in the area the quality of care they require for eight years.

The eating disorder service is receiving millions of pounds, and third-sector companies are being hired to manage brand-new programs like crisis cafes.

However, some wards require attention because of safety concerns. Nearly three years have passed since the passing of Elliot Harris, whose observation checks were 23 times falsified by staff. Inspectors discovered instances where seriously ill patients weren't being checked frequently enough, despite a warning from the Senior Norfolk Coroner Jaqueline Lake that observations aren't being done correctly.

With 41% of employees leaving within two years of joining, staffing continues to be a problem. Even at the Lowestoft adolescent unit, where the rating has improved, four out of ten beds were vacant at the time of the inspection because they lacked a significant consultant psychiatrist and senior psychologist.

In order for the changes to last until the next inspection, bereaved family members are hoping that this isn't a false dawn. They advise them to continue participating in the recovery support program for this reason.

The senior leadership of the trust received a letter of no confidence from 140 doctors in August 2022 informing Ms. Billingham that "endemic issues show little sign of resolving.".

Clive Lewis, the Labour member of parliament for Norwich South, welcomed the CQC's suggestions for improvement but characterized the trust as "institutionally failing.".

We've been in this situation before, so there is a bit of a yo-yo effect, he said.

When it comes to improving our mental health services throughout the region, the public wants to see tangible results. ".

He declared that the NSFT was "not fit for purpose" and demanded a public investigation into its flaws.

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