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Unison and The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk back King’s Fund’s warnings over mental health funding

PUBLISHED: 12:25 12 November 2015 | UPDATED: 17:32 12 November 2015

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk held a silent protest at Suffolk County Council's headquarters last year.

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk held a silent protest at Suffolk County Council's headquarters last year.

Mental health chiefs in Norfolk and Suffolk have welcomed a national report warning of the negative impact of funding cuts on patient care.

Health fundingHealth funding

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust (NSFT) said it was “delighted” today’s report by the King’s Fund had put the issue of mental health funding “top of the national agenda”.

Unison and The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk also welcomed the report, saying it mirrored many of their own concerns.

The review claims mental health services are facing “huge pressures” with around 40% of trusts experiencing budget cuts in the past year.

It highlights evidence of poor-quality care and claims bed occupancy is “frequently well above recommended levels”.

The large scale changes made by trusts to save costs are described as a “leap in the dark”, which may harm patient care.

Unison said the changes in Norfolk and Suffolk had made the services unable to cope with increases in capacity.

“It was a big guess and there were too many risks involved,” a spokesman added.

The Campaign said clinicians at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust warned in 2012 that plans for a “radical redesign” at NSFT were dangerous but were dismissed.

NSFT’s chief executive Michael Scott stressed that the focus was on providing high quality services as well as balancing the books.

He agreed, however, with the report’s warnings over the disparity in mental health investment compared with other services, which he said had deprived the trust of around £30 million over the past four years.

“We have seen a steady increase in the numbers of patients we deal with, year-on-year, increasing the pressure on our services while funding has not increased at the rate to meet this demand,” he added.

Mr Scott said the Trust was working its way out of special measures and had delivered many quality improvements.

“The challenges our Trust faces won’t be solved overnight; it is going to be a long and steady process and there will be more challenges along the way,” he added.

“But we fully intend to meet these challenges head on, working with our commissioners and other local providers to collectively champion the case of mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk.”

Unison warned the financial challenges were making circumstances increasingly difficult for staff members, despite their passion for the role.

“The government are essentially asking the board to do their job with their hands tied behind their back,” the spokesman added.

The minister responsible for mental health, Alistair Burt, said “great strides” had been taken in the approach to mental health, with more money invested than ever before.

For more on our Mental Health Campaign visit here.

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