Health

Concerns remain over failing mental health trust

'Claire'

A whistle-blower at a failing mental health trust - the first in England ever to be placed in special measures - says staff are still firefighting to keep patients safe.

A senior clinician known simply as Claire has spoken to the BBC in an exclusive interview.

She says despite regulators stepping in since February, little has improved at the Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust.

The trust says it has made changes and is entering a period of stability.

Safety concerns

Claire, who has worked at the trust for a number of years and wishes to remain anonymous, says even the most vulnerable patients, at risk of self-harm and suicide, are not receiving the right help because of staffing cuts and workload pressures.

She says this has left patients at risk and families desperate for help - some grieving for loved ones who have taken their own lives.

"None of us are getting any kind of hint that people are listening to us, that something is going to change. We used to say, 'Well, what has to happen? Do people have to start dying?' But people started dying and still we're on the same track."

"For some staff it feels like you're just about managing to keep people alive, but you're not actually offering any kind of treatment.

"For a lot of us it feels as if we're just firefighting. Or in other areas it feels like you're having to ration the treatments so some people can have it, but there isn't enough treatment to go round everyone."

Tragic loss

Image copyright family photo

Matthew Dunham, from Norwich, was 25 when he took his own life - after his treatment was delayed.

He told a mental health expert he had suicidal thoughts, but faced a month-long wait to see a specialist at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust.

The care he received was criticised by a coroner. Two years on, his mother, Donna, is still haunted by the way he died.

She said: "I think the hardest thing for me is the last picture you have is when we had to identify his body.

"When I sleep that's the picture I see."

Special measures

Image caption The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust is based at Hellesdon Hospital on the outskirts of Norwich

In February, the regulatory body the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspected the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust and deemed it to be unsafe.

It identified a number of serious issues, including concerns about the safety of services, staffing levels and leadership at the trust.

A director was then attached to the trust to oversee an improvement plan.

The trust says it is receiving support from a director of improvement previously employed to help turn around Mid Staffs - the trust at the centre of one of the worst hospital scandals to hit the NHS.

In a statement, Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust said: "The Board knows what is important, understands where they got it wrong and are putting it right.

"They will continue to listen, learn and improve and will ensure that the Trust offers high quality and safe services.

"We have announced extra investment in recruiting more staff, and opened additional beds in central Norfolk."

It also stressed that things would change as best and as quickly as they could within their limited resources.

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