Number of deaths among Suffolk and Norfolk mental health patients rises by a third in one year
- Credit: Archant
An internal investigation has been launched into mental health services in Suffolk and Norfolk after the number of patient deaths increased from 95 to 130 in a year.
It means the average number of deaths, including in accidents and suicides by people known to professionals to be living with a mental health disorder, has risen from four per month in 2013/14 to six per month in 2014/15. Death by natural causes and those related to drugs and alcohol are not included in the figure.
The figures were revealed in a report put to the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust board of directors yesterday. It also showed the number of serious incidents, which include the number of deaths, had risen from 172 to 228 in the same period.
Jane Sayer, director of nursing, quality and patient safety for the trust – which runs mental health services in the two counties – told the board: “We know that from 2013 we are seeing far more people than we were seeing previously. We are not comparing apples with apples.
“We have commissioned a piece of internal work to specifically look at suicide.
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“We have only got preliminary findings. Over a five year period there are no significant trends in the number of suicides when we look at that by the rate of referral.”
The trust, which provides mental health, substance misuse and learning disability services across Norfolk and Suffolk, is seeking to make savings of £8.9million this financial year following a financial investigation by the patients’ watchdog Monitor.
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Last November, Monitor found the trust had breached its license to provide healthcare services on a sustainable basis by predicting a £9.4m deficit for 2015/16 and by not having an “adequate recovery plan”.
Earlier this year it was placed into special measures by the regulator to improve the quality of its patient services.
At the meeting yesterday, a spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said the rise in deaths followed a cut to the trust’s budget and a reorganisation of its services in 2013, which saw the number of beds and staff numbers reduced.
He called on the board to make all of the data used to compile the figures public.
“As a campaign, I don’t think we trust you,” he said. “Apparently the data is a matter of an FOI (Freedom of Information) request.
“[The data] appears to show a rise in the monthly suicide rate to approaching almost seven now. That appears to be a very rapid rise. You seem to be a board that’s in denial.”
But board chairman Gary Page said: “We need to look at these incidents relative to the number of people that are using our services. That’s the analysis that’s being done.
“What would be inappropriate would be if the board didn’t ask to get underneath these numbers to see what’s going on.
“Everyone should wait to see that analysis before they start to draw their own conclusions. Everyone has a responsibility to wait to see the results before they start scaring people with only half the information.”
Trust chief executive Michael Scott said: “One suicide is too many and therefore we all have a responsibility to work together to decrease the rate of suicide.
“The fact of the matter is that 75% of all suicides never have any contact with mental health services. They are not people known to us.
“We lead the multi-agency suicide group in Norfolk. We bring together the British Transport Police, the police, we bring everyone together. We lead it, we chair it. We absolutely show system leadership around suicide.
“It’s a little bit slower in Suffolk. We are leading it but we need other agencies. We need public health, we need the police, to be part of it.”
The findings of the analysis will be brought back to the trust’s board of directors at a public meeting on completion.