Suffolk: Scrutiny committee vows to keep close eye on mental health job cuts

NEWS
Photograph Simon Parker 3/1/2012
Aidan Thomas, Chief Executive of the new Norfolk and Suffolk

NEWS Photograph Simon Parker 3/1/2012 Aidan Thomas, Chief Executive of the new Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust at Mariner House in Ipswich and Lord Newton the out going Chief Executive of the former service

A HEALTH watchdog has vowed to keep a close eye on a “radical redesign” of mental health services as senior clinicians said they still require more reassurance over measures to axe nearly 400 jobs.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Scrutiny Committee met for a second time yesterday at Suffolk County Council’s Endeavour House to examine the new model for how Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust will deliver services.

The trust is faced with the challenge of making 20% cuts over the next four years.

Initial proposals estimated 502 jobs were at risk but the meeting heard that number had fallen to 395 whole time equivalent posts – representing an 18% reduction in frontline staff.

Emma Corlett, a mental health nurse and Unison representative told the committee: “Our members accept that this is the financial challenge the organisation has been set but members are still not confident how the duty of care will be met within these significant reduction in resources.”

Dr Gillian Collighan, a consultant in old age psychiatry at NSFT raised concerns over the levels of senior medical staff who face the axe.

Initial plans anticipated a 33% reduction in medical staff including a 31% cut in consultant psychiatrists, a 50% cut in staff grade psychiatrists and a 32% cut in senior nurses.

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But NSFT’s medical director Dr Hadrian Ball said a review following staff consultation means those figures are likely to be reduced.

Dr Collighan said: “My concerns are that we are haemorrhaging expertise by cutting senior staff. I am concerned that by asking nurses to make a diagnosis based on a structured questionnaire we are painting by numbers, which could be the wrong diagnosis.”

NSFT chief executive Aidan Thomas vowed the trust will conduct additional and more thorough consultations as and when changes are made.

He said: “There will be continuous consultation. We will be working closely with stakeholders and staff to stabilise things. We are proud of open and critical engagement.”

Among the recommendations made was for the Norfolk and Suffolk separate scrutiny committees to re-examine plans in six months as well a requirement that NSFT does not rely too heavily on the third sector and charities.

Chairman of the joint scrutiny committee, Alan Murray stressed: “This is not by any means, the committee rubber stamping the plans.

“We have made strong recommendations that they (the trust) will be closely supervised by both health scrutiny committees.”

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