Norfolk and Suffolk health: Warning over ward plan

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

A mental health trust does not have funds to reopen a ward intended to ease a beds crisis, a report has warned.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) announced in September plans to reopen 10 beds at Hellesdon Hospital.

A report to the trust in October said it should not reopen the ward because it would add £1.9m to the annual bill.

But the trust told the BBC it still intended to provide the beds at the Thurne Ward at Hellesdon, near Norwich.

Officials say the ward would help cut the number of patients sent outside the counties for treatment.

Last week the BBC revealed the trust had 50 patients being treated outside Norfolk and Suffolk.

Image caption Michael Scott, the chief executive of the NSFT, has called for parity of funding between mental health trusts and mainstream hospitals

A report to the trust's board of directors says the plan to reopen the ward would add an annual £1.9m bill - against a yearly saving of £1.4m after an initial saving of £2.4m on the current system.

The report, by non-executive director of the trust Adrian Stott, highlighted the lack of funds and raises concerns over reopening the beds at "a time of financial distress".

Mr Scott recommended "reducing the number of inpatients who are not ill enough to be inpatients". The report included warnings 30 people would regularly be treated outside the counties unless action was taken.

Asked about the report's recommendations, Michael Scott, chief executive of the trust, said: "We recognise the need to have those beds open and we are going to open them and we are discussing with our funders how they can best support us in doing this."

A spokesman for a Clinical Commissioning Group covering Norfolk said it provided £71.86m in funding for the trust, "inclusive of community and inpatient beds".

He said the trust's request for extra funds came too late.

"The approach was made after the money had already been allocated across local NHS trusts, indeed NSFT received some of this money for programmes it had proposed," he said.

Emma Corlett, NSFT UNISON branch spokeswoman, said she welcomed the plan for reopening the beds in September but was "alarmed to learn... that currently this proposal is not deemed financially viable.

She said the "lack of beds is such a significant risk to the health and safety" that it is vital that the plans for 10 bed ward are fully funded.

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