Mental Health

16th October 2017

I was deeply alarmed by the news that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had recommended Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) be placed back into special measures.

We have a duty to ensure that mental health patients in Norfolk and Suffolk have access to the treatment they need, when they need it, and so it is absolutely vital that immediate measures are taken to bring about swift improvements to the service being provided.

As many of you will know, the Trust was previously placed into special measures back in 2014 when a CQC inspection rated it as ‘inadequate’ overall. This was the first time such action had been taken against a Trust and, like now, I was greatly concerned.

Actions were taken then to address the concerns raised by the CQC, and the Trust was subsequently removed from special measures last year. However, despite the tireless work of frontline staff to try and continue improving standards at the Trust, the CQC have concluded that standards have not been maintained, and that previous concerns have resurfaced.

This is clearly unacceptable.

Having spoken with many constituents whilst ‘out and about’, via email/letter and at my local constituency surgeries, I know how important an issue mental health provision is to residents in Mid Norfolk. It is also an area very close to my heart, and so I welcomed the Government’s announcement in 2015 that it was committed to treating mental health with parity of status to physical health. This recognition was a major step forward in the ongoing efforts to ensure those suffering are able to get the assistance they require, and deserve.

The situation in Norfolk and Suffolk must improve however, and I would like to echo the comments made recently by Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk. This is indeed very bad news and the judgment of the CQC must be treated seriously.

I believe that, whilst more money needs to be invested in this area, there has to be a change of mindset when addressing mental health. Instead of a medicines focussed approach from the NHS, we need to ensure that patients are at the centre of treatment, with the money following the patient through the community – instead of patients having to navigate complex public sector silos in a very fragmented and outdated system.

We also need to incentivise local councils and NHS agencies, such as the NSFT, to be able to recycle savings from treatment to invest in PREVENTION – rather than just continue spending ever growing sums on the costs of undiagnosed problems such as addiction, anxiety/mental health related illnesses and obesity. By focussing on prevention, we can drive up efficiency and really tackle head on the problems people face. This would ensure that people, such as those with mental health issues, get the level of care they should be able to expect.

Please be assured that I will continue to monitor this disturbing situation very closely, and I will be liaising with all my fellow MPs to suggest that we work on a cross party basis to help achieve the results we need here in Norfolk and Suffolk. I will also be looking to invite key members of the mental health community to my first Constituency Cabinet event, which I will be holding early in the New Year. 

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