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Mental health support to be 'beefed up' in weeks following Brexit

PUBLISHED: 17:54 28 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:17 01 March 2019

Left to right, NSFT chief executive Antek Lejk, non-executive director Tim Newcomb, chief nurse Diane Hull, chief operating officer Stuart Richardson, non-executive director Adrian Matthews. Photos: NSFT

Left to right, NSFT chief executive Antek Lejk, non-executive director Tim Newcomb, chief nurse Diane Hull, chief operating officer Stuart Richardson, non-executive director Adrian Matthews. Photos: NSFT

NSFT

Support for people suffering mental ill health will be "beefed up" in the period following Brexit over fears of how it could impact them.

Dr Bohdan Solomka, medical director at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). Photo courtesy of NSFT.Dr Bohdan Solomka, medical director at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). Photo courtesy of NSFT.

The move was revealed at the board meeting of the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) held in Norwich on Thursday.

While board members discussed the trust’s preparations for Brexit, which the Department of Health and Social Care had asked all organisations to draw up, NSFT chief executive Antek Lejk said they had considered problems with shortages of fuels and medications.

But he said: “The biggest risk is what comes through the ports on the east side. There are contingency arrangements to ensure there are stocks and delivery of medications for six weeks. The longer term biggest risk is around workforce.”

Tim Newcomb, a non-executive director and the trust’s vice chairman, said: “In our local preparations we are beginning to think about in the week or so afterwards an increased level of duty.”

Marie Gabriel CBE, chair of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) Picture: NSFTMarie Gabriel CBE, chair of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) Picture: NSFT

And it was also said there could be more support for crisis teams as “there could be people who are affected by the EU exit”.

Mr Lejk said: “On-call type arrangements will be beefed up over that period.”

Chief nurse Diane Hull added: “I think we need to be aware of how it makes staff and patients feel as well.”

But Mr Lejk assured the board that “if anything [the trust is] over-preparing”. He compared it to the millennium bug when many preparations were made as it was thought computers would not cope when the date changed to 2000, but the crisis failed the materialise.

Medical director Bohdan Solomka added: “Over-preparing can be a risk too because people then stockpile.”

Also during the meeting it was revealed the number of days patients spent out of the area had also increased to around 700 in December.

Non-executive director Adrian Matthews said: “While the number of service users is reasonably consistent the number of bed days out of the trust is growing. We have a commitment to reduce that to zero by 2021, there are still discussions about how are we actually going to get there.”

Chief operating officer Stuart Richardson said: “It’s not going in the right direction is it?”

He said the issue of out of area beds was one of the things he was discussing with commissioners.

“The original plan has not delivered what was expected,” he said. “We’ve got ideas to bring back to board next time.”

The board heard how waiting times had been brought down, and waits for those with high levels of need “should soon be eliminated”.

But those aged under 19 with eating disorders were still not being seen quick enough.

And there was a spike in serious incidents reported in January, when 17 were reported compared to five in December.

But the papers said: “The number of serious incidents reported per month does not currently suggest any increase or decrease that could not be accounted for by random variation.”

Ms Hull also provided reassurance that despite seven ward falling below the 80pc target for registered nurses, unqualified staff such as clinical support workers were used to ensure wards were safe.

Particular concerns were raised about performance in west Suffolk, but Ms Hull said there was now “new leadership” in place.

It was also clarified by Marie Gabriel, the new chairman of NSFT who was chairing her first board meeting, that new service directors introduced under a new management model would report to clinical directors, not the other way around as previously understood by campaigners.

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