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‘We can’t keep making excuses’ – Calls to ‘abolish’ mental health trust if rapid turnaround fails

Sandy Martin (Labour MP for Ipswich). Picture: House of Commons

Sandy Martin (Labour MP for Ipswich). Picture: House of Commons

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A Suffolk MP will join calls to abolish the region’s mental health trust unless there is clear evidence of significant improvement by the end of January, it has emerged.

Antek Lejk, chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). Photo: NSFTAntek Lejk, chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). Photo: NSFT

Sandy Martin, who represents Ipswich, made the announcement after taking part in a crunch talks with the Care Quality Commission and NHS Improvement this morning.

All Suffolk and Norfolk MPs were invited to take part via a conference call, though representatives for the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) were not involved.

Health secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock was unable to join in as he had a ministerial commitment.

During the call MPs demanded answers about the future of NSFT after it was ranked ‘inadequate’ for a third time.

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge  Picture: GREGG BROWNSouth Suffolk MP James Cartlidge Picture: GREGG BROWN

CQC chiefs said it is unlikely to be inspected fully next month, but noted that NSFT’s chief executive Antek Lejk anticipates significant progress to be made by late January.

However, Mr Martin said if the trust does not make a rapid turnaround in time he will join calls for its abolition, adding: “I believe we need to have an end-point beyond which we do not allow the trust to continue to fail.

“I was disappointed that we could not agree a date today, but I will repeat my call for a decisive end-point in January. Unless there is clear evidence of significant improvement in the near future I will join calls for the abolition of the trust. I believe those who need to use our mental health services have the right to know the dire situation is being improved.

“We cannot just continue to make excuses for the organisation on the basis of vague promises.”

Inspectors from the health watchdog said they will continue to monitor progress at NSFT.

MPs were also reassured of regular updates and a face-to-face meeting was earmarked for January.

The prospect of Suffolk splitting with Norfolk was also brought up, Mr Martin said, and it is understood NHS Strategic Transformation Partnerships (STPs) in both counties are currently discussing where they want NSFT to go.

Ahead of the conference call, Conservative South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said: “The future of the NSFT is incredibly important.

“I want to see it sorted out and improve.

“I hope that the NHS take whatever the appropriate solutions.”

Questions have been asked over whether strong enough action has been taken so far, considering the organisation has now failed multiple times.

Calls have also been made for NSFT to be placed into special administration – a classification kept strictly for health organisations with poor performance, also known as a ‘failure regime’.

CQC bosses and Mr Hancock said this step has not yet been ruled out.

Chief executive Antek Lejk, who did not take part in the call, said the trust is addressing immediate concerns found by the CQC.

He added:“Since receiving the draft CQC report, we have been taking action to address the immediate concerns found by the CQC and listening to our staff and service users to make sure we fully understand the deeper challenges faced by the trust.

“All of our focus is on improving the quality of services and looking at how we can best support our staff to enable us to move out of special measures and build a high quality service culture.

“This means that as a trust we need to be able to deliver consistent services of the standard we believe the people we serve deserve, and of which all of our staff can be proud.

“That is our priority.”

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