Suffolk: MP calls for close scrutiny over mental health cuts

A SUFFOLK MP has called for close scrutiny of proposals to cut jobs and in-patient beds at the county’s mental health service.

Health minister Dr Dan Poulter, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP, said a redesign of services at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust could benefit patients with more focus on treating people in the community.

Dr Poulter told the EADT he believes the changes are right, but called for close monitoring of the situation to ensure patients are not put at risk.

The trust announced last week it plans to cut 500 jobs across the two counties in the next four years – in Suffolk around 177 posts are expected to be axed from a pool of 821. More jobs are expected to go in Waveney, which is included as part of the Norfolk pool.

In addition, by 2016 the trust plans to cut inpatient beds by 20%. In Suffolk that equates to a fall from 150 beds to 117 and in Norfolk and Waveney 225 beds will be reduced to 172.

“I think this redesign will provide better care for patients, as the focus is on preventing people from getting unwell,” Dr Poulter added.

“There are planned changes to the way care is delivered with more emphasis on treating people in the community.

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“It is an important aspect in all types of care, focusing on preventing people reaching crisis point rather than picking up the pieces when they become very unwell and need hospitalisation.”

Dr Poulter called for savings to be made in the back office departments to allow more money to be spent on treating patients.

He added: “Models of care around mental health are changing.

“The old systems of patients being treated in asylums was an appalling way to treat people, who were often written off.

“We are seeing a move away from hospitalisation to more community-based support.

“Between a quarter and a third of people will suffer some mental health problems in their lives.

“The best thing for patients is offering them support so they can carry on living in the community.”

Last year the then Suffolk Mental Health Trust admitted a series of failings following a series of killings in the county.

An independent report carried out by the trust revealed concerns about the organisation’s management in light of the nine killings, allegedly carried out by people who had received care from the trust at one time.

Addressing concerns that a cut in the number of frontline staff could result in similar failings, Dr Poulter said a “close watch must be kept on the consultation” by the county’s scrutiny committee.

He added: “That report highlighted a problem of not having enough community support for people.

“So I think what the trust are looking to do in redesigning the service with more focus on community care will help prevent similar things from happening.”

He added: “At the moment it is at consultation stage. We have to make sure while it is right to provide more care in the community we don’t lose the ability to look after people in a more acute setting.

“In Suffolk this redesign should be a winning situation for patients with more investment in community services, an area where we have historically been the poorer cousin to Norfolk.”

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