Norfolk and Suffolk: The "worst" mental health trust in the nation has improved

generic picture of a doctor moving through a hallway

Inspectors report that one of the nation's worst mental health trusts has significantly improved.

After a report revealed that patients were exposed to risks of harm, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) was given a warning notice in 2021.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) reported on Friday that crisis services and wards for young people had improved.

The trust's "institutional failings," according to Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, still require an investigation.

For those with learning disabilities in Norfolk and Suffolk, the NSFT offers care and support in the area of mental health.

The NSFT received an inadequate rating in 2021, was put in special measures, and was the only mental health trust included in the NHS's improvement program because it did not meet standards.

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

The trust was given a "good" rating for being compassionate in the report, which was released on Friday, but it was given a "needs improvement" rating for being responsive to people's needs.

Inspecting teams did discover "a few areas where there has been a deterioration in the quality and safety of care provided to people," though.

The trust has more to do to consistently provide the high standards of care and treatment that people have a right to expect, but it has made welcome progress - even during what is still a challenging time for the NHS, according to Jane Ray, deputy director of operations for the CQC.

"The trust now needs to make sure the advancements it has made don't reverse, and it needs to put its dedication to improvement to work in areas where people still can't get what they deserve in terms of standards. ".

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

In order to consistently provide high-quality care, he said, "We are not complacent and must continue to make improvements at pace.".

The trust's board chair, Zo Billingham, stated that the company would "focus on improving quality, safety, and the experiences of the people who use our services as well as our staff.". ".

The cause of death for Eliot Harris, seen here when he was younger, could not be established by a pathologist
In Great Yarmouth's NSFT Northgate Hospital, 48-year-old Eliot Harris passed away while under medical care.

The trust was urged to demonstrate that changes had been made by Sally Harris, whose son Eliot, 48, passed away at Great Yarmouth's Northgate Hospital in April 2020.

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

An inquest into his death found that three employees had fabricated observation records the night he passed away, which led to their dismissal.

Sally Harris photographed in her home
Sally Harris, whose son Eliot passed away while receiving care from NSFT, described the staff as "robotic and uncaring.".

Mrs. Harris told the BBC that she was "absolutely appalled" by the "robotic and uncaring" treatment her son had received from staff members.

Eliot, according to her, was "clever and artistic, but needed a little extra care.".

I hoped they could put him back on his medication so he could resume functioning, she said.

"I find it repugnant that anyone could be so dishonest. They were signing without checking the signatures and falsifying the records. Or getting other signers to acknowledge something they hadn't even verified. It was pretty terrible. ".

In the upcoming month, a report on deaths at the trust will be released.

Generic image of doctors walking in corridor
A year after receiving a warning notice, the NSFT was found to have made some improvements by the CQC.

There is still work to be done, and the trust will continue to receive intensive and focused assistance as part of the recovery support program to ensure that improvement is sustained and expanded, according to a spokesperson for NHS East of England. " .

Positive changes have been made in the children and adolescent units as well as with services for those experiencing a mental health crisis. The trust has not offered the caliber of care that patients in the area require for eight years.

For the treatment of eating disorders, millions of pounds are being spent, and third-party service providers are being hired to manage brand-new programs like crisis cafes.

But in some wards, there are safety concerns that need to be resolved. Elliot Harris, whose observation checks were 23 times forged by staff, passed away almost three years ago. Inspectors still 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 conducted properly.

A problem with staffing is that 41% of new hires leave within two years. Four out of ten beds were vacant at the time of the inspection, even at the Lowestoft adolescent unit where the rating had improved, as they lacked a significant consultant psychiatrist and senior psychologist.

Bereaved family members are hoping that these changes will last through the upcoming inspection and that this isn't just a false dawn. They have advised them to remain in the recovery support program for this reason.

In a letter of disapproval to the trust's senior management dated August 20, 2022, 140 doctors warned Ms. Billingham that "endemic issues show little sign of resolving.".

The trust, according to Labour MP for Norwich South Clive Lewis, is "institutionally failing," despite the improvements noted by the CQC.

It's a bit of a yo-yo effect, the problem is that we've been here before, he said.

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

He argued that the NSFT was "not fit for purpose" and demanded that a public investigation into its shortcomings be conducted.

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