During the compilation of this just-recently released report, I was asked to contribute my concerns. Well before the report’s authors did so, I also met with the Norfolk Coroner about the issue of unexpected mental health deaths.
I have yet to read the final report but I know it will be scant consolation to the friends and families who’ve lost loved ones to find out in the press that their loss may be within some ‘national average’.
As it stands, there’s nothing in the coverage of the report that says that much has materially improved for patients and families. It seems to be a tale mainly of the stats maybe telling us that things may not have been as bad as we thought (but even that is subject to all kinds of caveats about how valid the research is).
Let’s be clear about this. Every ‘unexpected death’ is not just a statistic. It means misery, anguish and grieving for real people. And any avoidable death is one death too many.
I will also hold judgment on the recommendations until I read the report in full. When I do I will judge it as much by what it omits of the concerns I raised as what it says about the ones that I did.
While it’s good to see that other local (Lib Dem and Tory) MPs were consulted for this report, I find it gobsmacking that their record while in charge of local mental health services doesn’t warrant a mention.
The much campaigned against deterioration of local mental health services has happened on the watch of a local Lib Dem Care Minister, his Coalition government and subsequently the current Tory government. This deterioration did not happen in some kind of local vacuum - in the end the buck has to stop somewhere. And in this case it stops with the politicians who are - or were - in charge and could have done things differently.
Of course, local NHS management should be held to account when they get things wrong as Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trusts (NSFT) has so often in the last few years. But the reality is that we are in the midst of a national emergency in mental health made in Downing Street.
National Tory and Lib Dem decisions have had disastrous consequences locally. NSFT has had to make cuts of £40million, is now in the red by £11million and there are still £36million of cuts to come. Since the Tories came to power in 2010, local mental health services now have 32% fewer doctors and 12% fewer nurses.