Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has failed people in Norwich South and across the Eastern region for too long. I meant it when I said that enough was enough after the CQC published yet another damning report of the Trust in April.
Yesterday in Parliament, in collaboration with the Campaign to defend mental health services in Norfolk & Suffolk I hosted a meeting that brought together bereaved families, former frontline staff, and carers, the Minister for Mental Health, and some MPs from the region (I had to virtually join because I self-isolating due to a positive Covid test).
It was clear from the testimony I heard that too many families, service users, carers, and staff members, have not been listened too. Warning sirens have been ignored. They have asked, for years, for lessons to be learned, yet NSFT has continued to preside over deaths, and a growing unmet need for services.
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) must now step and put NSFT into special administration. A failed institution simply cannot be put in charge of reforming itself. Certainly not after 4 failed CQC inspections, and over 1,000 excess deaths.
Yesterday I saw that a growing number MPs from our region will not defend NSFT’s failures. I will work with those MPs who are willing to get justice for bereaved families and failed service users.
I will also continue to call for a statutory public inquiry, for two important reasons.
Firstly, the thousands of people who have lost loved ones and who have been failed by NSFT need justice and closure. This involves publicly holding to account the individuals and institutions within the Trust who are responsible for failures, and addressing failings and oversights in the law and other institutions.
Secondly, whatever happens next to NSFT cannot be a rebranding exercise. If there is a rebuilding or reorganisation of the Trust, the findings of a public inquiry will be critical to ensuring that the same mistakes are not repeated, and that lessons are indeed learned. Whatever happens next for NSFT must be led by findings of a statutory independent inquiry, which operates with transparency. Bereaved families, service users, carers, frontline NSFT staff, and mental health experts should be a the heart of this process.
We know what has to happen now to address the failures at NSFT: DHSC needs to take the Trust into special administration and initiate a statutory independent inquiry; a new funding package to provide free at the point of use, community-based mental health services for all who need them; a workforce plan for recruitment and retention of staff; and a bottom-up rebuild through a co-production model involving front line staff and service users.
I also want to see this Government and the next Government take steps to reckon with and address the underlying causes of the mental health epidemic.
The defining feature of the society we have today is one which says people’s ultimate value comes down to how much they consume. In an economy that is hard-wired to produce inequality, by that measure of ‘value’ there’s a growing number of people who are deemed to have no worth – which most us know, is simply not true.
The lack of a social safety net means too many people can’t pay their bills and have to turn to food banks because their pay doesn’t stretch to life’s essentials. Privatisation has torn the social infrastructure out of the hearts of our communities – from Sure Start centres to libraries to community centres. There has been a race to the bottom on work conditions and pay, with low pay and precariousness now pervasive, and workers’ rights being eroded day by day. Support for people with disabilities has been whittled down to the bone.
For too many people a combination of these factors has driven their mental health and wellbeing off a cliff edge. These are the underlying causes which I believe any Government that claims to be serious about tackling the mental health crisis must address.