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Suffolk: Mental health trust plans to axe 500 jobs

09:23 23 October 2012

Aidan Thomas, chief executive of the mental health trust

Aidan Thomas, chief executive of the mental health trust


ONE in five frontline jobs at the county’s mental health trust are set to be axed.


The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is planning to shed 500 front-line jobs and 20% of its inpatient beds over the next four years.

In Suffolk 177 jobs from a pool of around 821 will be cut.

The trust said the proposals are part of radical redesign by clinicians in response to a tough NHS efficiency drive which means it has to cut five per cent of its budget every year for the next few years.

While the trust says it is hopeful that it will not have to make any compulsory redundancies, and that inpatient beds will only be axed when there is evidence they are no longer needed, concerns have today been raised over the impact the changes could have on staff and patients.

A union has also blasted the Government for forcing the trust to make the cuts as part of a drive to save £20bn across the entire NHS.

Trust chief executive Aidan Thomas said instead of having managers trying to “cut out a bit here and a bit there”, they instead asked 250 clinicians to lead a radical redesign of services.

He said: “Most of what we spend is on people and a 20pc reduction in costs over four years probably means about a 20pc reduction in staff.

“We are making a commitment that we will try to avoid compulsory redundancies.”

The trust employs around 4,500 staff, but the redesign only involves a pool of around 2,130 workers.

It has been keeping vacancies open and as of the end of August this year has to cut another 247 jobs by the end of March 2016.

It hopes to do this through natural wastage, voluntary redundancies and through re-training staff for any other available posts.

The trust has now entered into a 90-day consultation with staff. It is also pledging that when inpatient beds are cut that each of its five areas where beds are based will continue to have beds for adult patients of all ages.

Jeff Keighley, Unison’s Suffolk mental health regional organiser, said: “We are not in dispute with the trust about this, they are having to do it because they have got no choice and they are trying to do it in the right way.

“They are not being funded to provide a good quality service.

“It’s the scale of the cuts that is the problem and if we didn’t have this costly restructure of the NHS too, we wouldn’t be cutting it the way we are.”

Mr Thomas said the redesign will look at how preventative measures could be put in place to stop patients from becoming very ill or getting to a point of crisis, as well as using treatments which give patients more choice and control over their life.

He also said too many patients were being admitted to wards when in fact they could have been treated in the community.

Ben Gummer, MP for Ipswich, said: “I have had assurances that the quality of front-line services will be maintained but I am still concerned about these proposals as mental health care in Suffolk is already well behind were it should be.

“We should be looking to have improvements rather than just standing still.

That doesn’t necessarily mean more staff but it does man a clear vision for he trust and I will be looking closer at their proposals.”



  • It is interesting that no mention has been made of Suffolk's only NHS inpatient facility for people with Learning Disabilities. A 12 bed unit that provides an excellent service to this group of people who are the most vulnerable in the community. Walker Close in Ipswich is in the plan to be closed in October 2013. Not reduced but apparently disregarded in the modern plans. This unit has traditionally provided support for its patient group who often suffer the double whammie of a Learning Disability compounded by acute mental ill-health. Many of the patients would be extremely vulnerable in main stream services and desperately need this service to be maintained.

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    Tuesday, October 23, 2012

  • Mr Thomas states that too many patients are admitted for inpatient treatment when they should be treated in the community. Where is his evidence for this assertion? Admission to inpatient care is a last resort, as any clinician will confirm. I suggest Mr Thomas tries communicating with his staff; something that management usually find difficult.

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    Tuesday, October 23, 2012

  • For six years I worked for what was then Suffolk Mental Health Partnership, thoroughly enjoyed working for them and was proud to do so. The thing that stuck in the throat throughout the entire experience, for anyone I came into contact with though was how beholden our department (nothing actually to do with mental health care, but purely under SMHP's stewardship) were to the PCTs we were doing all our work for. Arguments that went on for months, years even (through the medium of endless and costly meetings) came down to how much work NHS Suffolk (who spent half a million on a farmhouse to flatten for parking spaces, lest we forget) wanted to get done by SMHP on their behalf and how little they were prepared to pay for it, if at all. It's no surprise to me that jobs are being lost on the front-line, and it's doubly frustrating to have had a glimpse of the culture of abrogation behind it all, with the only employer I've had where I didn't have to lie about or disguise my own history of mental ill health to stay there. They were the best people I've had the privilege to work for, and I only left because I could no longer cope with the disparity between the work that needed doing and the support available to do it. Chris Miller PS You know when you get a printed prescription, and another one with a big X comes out made out of smaller capital X's? When I left, Suffolk was sending out nearly £100,000 worth of that paper a year. I dread to think what fraction of that goes straight in the bin, but that's the reality. Tax-funded bean-counters forcing tax-funded lackeys to shift unnecessary tax-funded crap around in tax-funded diesel-powered vehicles - at the expense of support for people who are now, for wanting support for their conditions, being demonised as a drain on the economy. Physician heal thyself.

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    Careful Now

    Tuesday, October 23, 2012

  • It's also worth noting that these cuts are to frontline posts, exactly where more resources are needed to provide an efficient service, not less. However, managerial posts are not being cut. Of course Mr Gummer has been assured that this will not affect the service offered (how?), as Mr Thomas et al will be under pressure to make these cuts or risk the whole service being tendered to a cheaper provider. Interesting times ahead as we see the health service -as we know it -crumble, and parts of it being sold of to whoever can promise to offer a cheaper service.

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    Tuesday, October 23, 2012

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