'Still more work to do' - health secretary speaks over 'special measures' NHS trust in back yard
PUBLISHED: 07:46 15 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:04 15 January 2020
Health secretary Matt Hancock has vowed to support Norfolk and Suffolk's struggling mental health trust and bring it out of special measures.
The West Suffolk MP recognises there have been improvements at the trust but feels there is still more work to do, as the organisation was once again kept in special measures - but brought up to 'requires improvement' by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission.
Children's mental health services - which were rated 'inadequate' in the CQC's latest report - need to be focused on, he said.
"It's encouraging the situation is heading in the right direction now that the trust has gone from being rated inadequate to now being rated requires improvement," Mr Hancock added.
"This is the first step on a long journey, and I pay tribute to colleagues who are turning mental health services around. Clearly there is further work necessary, especially in children's mental health services.
But he added: "Progress could not be possible without the dedication and effort of our fantastic NHS staff."
He said his government is pumping £2.4billion into mental health services across the UK to ensure it is "fit to cope" with growing demand.
"There needs to be better access, and greater collaboration between mental health and physical health services- the two are inextricably linked and we need to consider both elements when treating patients," he said.
"I will continue to work to ensure the delivery of mental health services improves across East Anglia."
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge expressed disappointment that NSFT remains in special measures - and wants to meet with key players to discuss a way forward.
"While the report notes improvements, and highlights some examples of outstanding practice, the fact is that the primary institution for serving the most vulnerable mental health patients in our region continues to struggle," he said.
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"I don't doubt that huge efforts have been undertaken to move the trust forward but it is a particular concern that one of the main areas of weakness concerns long waits for children and young people.
"This chimes directly with my experience where a number of constituency cases of children and young people have faced lengthy delays which have been difficult to resolve.
"It is important that as MPs we have a further opportunity in the coming weeks to meet with key stakeholders to hear what options are available to ensure progress can actually be made."
Former health minister Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said he felt "cautiously optimistic" about the trust's future.
After the 2018 inspection, he had raised concern over the potential splitting of the organisation into separate institutions for Suffolk and Norfolk.
He added: "Undoubtedly there is still more to do, but I think we should welcome the improvement in the trust's rating, which is an important step forward in improving services for patients.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that the trust is now on the right track.
"The key (to further improvements) will be continuing to attract staff in shortage areas like children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
"It's going to be a two to four-year turnaround for transformation and I think we need to recognise that.
"But the longer term challenge is doing more to support people with poor mental health in the community. In Suffolk, it's been really hard to recruit people into post for CAMHS.
"The leadership now needs to make working in CAMHS in Suffolk more attractive."
Current health minister Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, also plans to meet with leaders about this most recent report.
"It is disappointing that NSFT remains in special measures, and I will be speaking with the leadership to arrange a meeting to discuss the findings of this report and how the trust plans to move forward," she said.
"While it is encouraging that the CQC has found improvements in the trust's care, all stakeholders now need to work together to deliver the supportive service we are all striving for."
And Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, is glad to hear the trust will still be under scrutiny from the CQC.
She added: "It's good to see that progress is being made but clearly there is still a lot to do.
"It is, therefore, right that the trust is still in special measures as that will ensure the ongoing scrutiny from the CQC."