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Worst-performing mental health trust ‘still has a way to go’

England’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals has recommended that Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT ) remains in special measures following a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection.

NSFT was branded the worst-performing mental health trust in England after it was rated ‘inadequate’ three times in recent years, with the CQC saying it had ‘significant concerns’ about the safety, culture and leadership of the trust

The trust, which also provides learning disability services, is the only mental health trust in the country to have been placed in special measures, a step first taken in February 2015 and again in 2017.

Inspectors returned between October 7 and November 6, 2019, and determined that, although the trust had made some improvements, it will remain in special measures.

Chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Ted Baker, said: ‘On our return to Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust we found that improvements had been made in several areas, but more work still needs to be done.

‘At our inspection in 2017, we raised concerns about safety, culture and leadership and told the trust it must take urgent action to put things right. Some of these were issues that we first raised with the trust in 2014.

‘The trust board and senior leadership team were newly formed. At our inspection in 2018 we had significant concerns about the safety, culture and leadership of the trust. Since then, there had been a change in leadership.

‘At this inspection, we found that, although some of the concerns had not fully been addressed, there had been a shift in approach and foundations had been laid to improve the direction of travel. Most staff inspectors spoke with felt more listened to, empowered and believed the trust is moving forwards.

‘We saw early improvements in almost all areas and a feeling of optimism from all staff, but there had not been enough time to judge if these changes would be sustained.

‘While governance processes had improved, they had not yet fully ensured that performance and risk were managed well. For instance, waiting lists remained high in the specialist children and young people community mental health teams.

‘Some stakeholders did not feel that changes had positively impacted all patients, with feedback advising that some still did not feel listened to, with poor communication being a key feature of feedback from patients and their families.

‘The trust leadership is aware of the areas where improvements are needed.’

NSFT Chief Executive Jonathan Warren, who took up post in April last year, said he wanted the trust to be in the top quarter of mental health trusts nationally for quality and safety by 2023.

‘This is a move in the right direction and is down to the hard work and dedication of staff. We are also starting to see some of the improvements we are putting in place come to fruition.

‘However, we are under no illusions and recognise that the next 12 months and beyond are crucial in not only fully embedding changes already made, but in building upon them so that next time we are inspected, we have shown further significant improvement.

‘Our improvement plan, which has regular oversight by our regulators, will now be refreshed and informed by working closely with all our services to determine our priorities for the next six months.

‘Our ambition remains for NSFT to deliver high quality and effective services for our patients and be in the top quarter of mental health trusts nationally for quality and safety by 2023 and the CQC confirms we have made a good start.’

Photo credit – Pixabay

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