"Significant cultural changes" need to be made to the county's mental health service following a "disappointing" report which has seen it rated as inadequate.

Those are the calls from charities, campaigners and a local MP in response to Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) report.

Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, himself an NHS mental health GP, said: “The CQC report is very disappointing and the trust will need to take note of the findings and rapidly put together a robust action plan and recovery strategy.”

He noted that the inspection took place at a difficult time during the COVID-19 pandemic when healthcare professionals were unable to support patients in the usual way due to social distancing and remote working.

The trust had also experienced a ‘turbulent time’ due to changes in senior personnel which had not helped service delivery.

He added: “The focus now must be on supporting the new senior leadership team to get on and deliver the changes that are required to improve care for patients.”

The head of Suffolk User Forum (SUF), which represents people who use mental health services in Suffolk, agreed the need for urgent action on areas of concern including care at times of crisis, and the management of people's discharge from services.

East Anglian Daily Times: Jayne Stevens, SEO of Suffolk User ForumJayne Stevens, SEO of Suffolk User Forum (Image: Archant)

Jayne Stevens, CEO, said: “The trust needs to ensure a significant culture change where individual practitioners truly value the individuals in their care, and their family/parent carers. Too often people do not feel valued, heard, or respected and experience services as done to them, instead of enabling individuals to be active participants in their care.

"The trusts values and current policies are effective when they are acted on, but in many areas of care they are simply not being consistently followed. Service users and family/parent carers are asking for changes in practitioner behaviour.

“Whilst we appreciate the pressure on NSFT’s services, these same pressures affect mental health trusts across England. We can see no reason why Suffolk service users should continue to receive inadequate care, since they have no choice but to access NSFT’s services and particularly since this situation now dates back over more than seven years to 2014.

“We think it is only right to insist that people in Suffolk receive the same good quality care as is available in the rest of England.

“The best mental health trusts design and evaluate their services in genuine partnership with service users and this will be essential to NSFT’s improvement.

"We will continue to offer our support to the Trust in this regard, and we call on the Trust and on all local agencies to accelerate, as a matter of urgency, their work in addressing the improvements required in today’s report.”

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk group, which is fighting for better mental health services in the two counties, has welcomed the CQC’s rating.

East Anglian Daily Times: Hellesdon Hospital, HQ of the NSFTHellesdon Hospital, HQ of the NSFT (Image: Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2009)

Spokesman Mark Harrison said: “We are pleased that the CQC has recognised what those with lived experience have been saying consistently since 2013 – that the mental health trust for Norfolk and Suffolk is a failure.

“However, it is not enough and there are now serious questions for NHS England and Improvement and the local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) who have allowed this dire situation to continue.

“The decision is too late for many who have lost their lives and the bereaved families who have lost loved ones.”

He called on the Department for Health and Social Care to outline what actions were going to be taken to improve the situation at the Trust.

Campaigners from the group are due to attach memorial hearts to a hedge outside Hellesdon Hospital in Norwich, managed by NSFT, in recognition of patients who died after receiving inadequate care.

Failings in care provided by NSFT were cited at the March inquest into the death of Ipswich woman Rachael Conner, 22, after the hearing heard she had not been provided with a clinician she could liaise with on a consistent basis about her mental health issues and body dysmorphia.