Mental health trust faces being placed into special measures after being handed an inadequate rating by the CQC

Michael Scott, new chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust

Michael Scott, new chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust - Credit: Archant

An under-fire mental health trust was last night facing the prospect of being placed into special measures as a damning CQC report raised major concerns over issues including staff morale and patient safety.

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals has recommended the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which also provides services related to learning disabilities and eating disorders, should be placed into special measures after being rated “inadequate”.

The CQC inspected services in October and they said they found “serious problems”. They also said the board ‘could not assure them they knew how the trust was performing and how decisions were implemented or impacted on quality’.

The other problems highlighted by the CQC inspection included:

n Low staff morale

n Staff not feeling engaged with the “improvement agenda” or any “top-level decisions”.

n Unsafe environments that did not promote patient dignity and insufficient staffing levels to safely meet patients’ needs.

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n A large number of staff had not had mandatory training and many did not have regular supervision and appraisals.

Dr Paul Lelliott, CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals (lead for mental health), said: “We were concerned about the safety and quality of care provided by some of the trust’s services. We were also struck by the low morale of many of the staff that we interviewed who told us that their voices were not heard by those managing the trust.”

The official report, released yesterday, focused on five key areas. The trust was deemed inadequate on mental health services being safe and well led and in terms of whether its services were effective and responsive, it was rated “requires improvement”.

However, it was labelled good for providing a service that was caring.

NSFT officials have admitted there are issues that need to be addressed, but stressed they were confident improvements would be made.

Michael Scott, NSFT chief executive, said: “On behalf of the Board I’d like to thank staff for their support and dedication and underline our commitment to work with staff to improve our services.

“We are under new management, the new team is bedding in, and there is no complacency on our part about the need to continue to deliver improvements.

“I would like to assure our patients, staff and our partners that this is a turning point for the Trust and we will continue to do everything possible to address all of the recommendations the CQC has made.”

The NSFT provides a number of services and facilities across Suffolk and Norfolk. It is responsible for operations including community, acute, assessment and inpatient services.

It runs facilities including Wedgwood House in Bury St Edmunds, Woodlands, in Ipswich and Carlton Court near Lowestoft.

The work of staff was praised in the report, including the child and adolescent community teams and the dementia and complexity in later life team.

Annie Topping, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: “It is clear that the Trust must make improvements to move forward and it is essential that this includes working with service users to build trust and demonstrate that they are being heard.

“We will continue to support the trust in its journey to improve the services, and the ongoing work of the CQC, to ensure that this is made a reality.”


NSFT bosses have admitted the report into the Trust has been disappointing, but they are upbeat that they can turn around the fortunes of the under-fire service.

In an interview with this newspaper yesterday, Gary Page, chairman of NSFT, said: “The board is hugely disappointed at the report. I think on the positive side, overwhelmingly across the services they have looked at the message is that our staff are caring and responsive and that is really important for people that need to use our services.

“We are aware that there have been significant mistakes made in the past. Staff morale is low, staff feel disconnected from the leadership of the Trust.

“We flagged these issues up and over the last year have made significant changes to people around the board table so there is a new team in place that is ready to take on the many challenges we face.”

He added that some of the problems facing the Trust, according to the report, are not issues in Suffolk. For example, the lack of beds which was highlighted is a problem seen primarily in central Norfolk.

Emma Corlett, Unison spokeswoman, said: “I think staff will be reassured that it was acknowledged in the report that care and compassion was still shining through.

“We hope it means acknowledgement that we don’t have enough staff so we need more resources to put staff on the frontline.”

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said the report has highlighted the issues of staffing levels and “superficial engagement”.

The spokesman added: “Now, we need to see a genuine sense of commitment and urgency to put things right.”