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NFST - Our Experience, Our Voice


Following the news that the Care Quality Commission has warned Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) that the Trust must improve, we have seen a flood of statements and interviews about the situation at NSFT. We wanted to find out what experiences our members have had with the Trust. We have decided to share a selection of those experiences. (Most of the people who sent in their experiences asked for their identity to be protected so we have changed any identifying details.)


There were some positive experiences. One person mentioned their good experiences of a participation group they have attended and how much that had helped them. Another person talked about how they had in the past received help from NSFT but that it was terrible that, now, people were struggling to access the support they need. Unsurprisingly, however, most of the responses were of the bad experiences that people had been through.


Several people talked about the waiting times and the diagnosis process being harmful:


“I spent 4 years on a waiting list for an autism assessment. When I eventually got it I was told all post diagnostic support had been withdrawn so that the funds could be used to reduce the waiting list!! Can you imagine the uproar if you were diagnosed with cancer and then told there won’t be any further help because we only have the funds to diagnose you?!!!”


A parent told of their child’s experience:


“My child has PTSD. They were first referred to CAMHS age 11. They are now nearly 14 and still waiting. They had an appointment with a clinician who didn't fully appreciate the issue and went straight into talking about it. This is a huge trigger for them and they didn't feel safe continuing with the appointment. I explained this and was told my child might have to wait another two years if they refuse to engage (a phrase which I absolutely detest.) I am shocked and sad that this is how we've been let down. “


People also talked of services that could not meet their needs:


“For 15 out of the past 24 months I’ve been without a care coordinator”


“The crisis team were supposed to give me support calls over that weekend and I got not one.”


Many people felt that underfunding and under staffing were big issues. Our members cited poor management as the biggest issue. One member asked a question that seems to sum up what most of the members said:


“I know they have now brought in yet another new director but he is saying same old, same old, we’ve heard it all before – the Trust’s record is shameful and they have repeatedly failed the residents of Norfolk & Suffolk citing the same empty promises that they will do better each time they fail the CQC inspection - but they don’t appear to be doing anything differently so how will it change for the better? “


How to improve the situation?


Some members felt that the Trust should be split on county lines but most people felt that more root and branch changes need to be made:


“I’m not even convinced having one Trust for two big counties is the way to continue – maybe it should be split?”


“The Trust needs to completely scrutinise and learn from bad practice and not carry on letting it be the norm.”


“I believe now the whole Trust needs to be scrapped and start again, tinkering round the edges will not work. I don’t know enough about how the Trust is run, to explain how this could be achieved, but the other interventions and “special measures “ haven’t worked. There is no point in them doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different outcomes.”


There was also an interesting suggestion about the CQC:


“The CQC itself also needs a major shake-up as they are too weak – they need to be given more power to kick out failing management and /or take over the running of failing Trusts. This merry-go-round of in and out of special measures for a decade is totally unacceptable and makes a complete mockery of the whole inspection system. We have harsher rules for athletes who false start a race than we do for people who literally have the lives of others in their hands. It’s crazy. There should be a statutory time limit of no more than 5 years for any failing institution, be it a school/care home/ NHS Trust, after which the Government steps in and takes over.”


Conclusion


People feel strongly about NSFT and feel let down by an institution that has been failing for years. Many people who have used the service have had bad experiences and are deeply concerned about using it again. While it is important to recognise that parts of NSFT are good, it is important not to let this minimise the issue that we have a failing mental health trust - and have had for far too long - and this is killing people and hurting even more. I do not believe that splitting the Trust along the lines of Norfolk and Suffolk will do enough to help fix the issues that the Trust must address to improve. I would like to see a public inquiry looking at how this has been allowed to go on for 10 years and what can be done to prevent this type of thing happening again. More urgently, we would like to see the Government take over the management of the Trust while changes are made and a new structure put in place. Ben Reed, CEO

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