Suffolk and Norfolk mental health shake-up concerns

SMHP's chief executive Aidan Thomas Aidan Thomas, the chief executive of the trust, hopes change will improve the service

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Concern has been raised over the pace of a major shake-up of mental health care in Suffolk and Norfolk.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is looking to cut up to 500 staff as it tries to make savings of £40m.

The Trust told the Norfolk and Suffolk scrutiny panel, meeting to oversee plans, that the concerns were being addressed.

Panel chairman Alan Murray said members broadly backed the need for a reorganisation.

The new strategy includes addressing people at an earlier stage of their illness to try and avoid the need for care beds to be used.

'Assurance over beds'

The reorganisation aims to have more people treated in the community.

Mr Murray said at the panel's meeting: "We are concerned with the speed of the changes, but supportive of change. More dialogue is needed with the Trust.

"Mental care, as a whole, can't be rushed."

Mr Murray said he was reassured by the trust that a possible cut in the numbers of beds available would only happen if other places were available or if the beds were not needed.

In October last year Bob Blizzard, ex Labour MP for Waveney, said the trust was looking at cutting the number of acute beds in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth from 42 to 20.

Mr Murray said: "We have been given an assurance that beds would not be closed until alternative arrangements were in place."

A trust spokeswoman said the actual number of proposed bed cuts was from 20 to 14 between now and 2016.

Aidan Thomas, chief executive of the trust, said after the meeting that he hoped "to avoid any compulsory job losses".

He said some areas of the service could be "better" following the changes.

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