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Mental health trust admits discharge of 300 young people from waiting list was ‘decision’

PUBLISHED: 13:22 03 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:53 03 September 2020

The NSFT's service for children and young people on 80 St Stephens in Norwich. Photo: Google Maps

The NSFT's service for children and young people on 80 St Stephens in Norwich. Photo: Google Maps

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The region’s mental health trust has admitted a letter discharging more than 300 young people from its waiting list at the start of the pandemic was not a mistake.

Dr Sarah MaxwellDr Sarah Maxwell

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) sent a letter to hundreds of patients on waiting for access to children and young people’s services at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis.

The letter informed the patients they would no longer be getting any more appointments and said their referrals had been closed.

The trust apologised at the time and said the letters “should not have been sent”. But NSFT have now admitted the incident was “not a clerical error”.

READ MORE: Mental health service sends letter to 300 young people removing them from waiting list

Speaking at a meeting of the county council’s health scrutiny committee - a group of elected councillors tasked with holding health services to account - Dr Sarah Maxwell, clinical director of children and young people’s services, said the letter was a “decision” taken by the trust.

It came during a discussion of progress since its 2019 inspection - which rated children and young people’s services as ‘inadequate’.

Brenda Jones, Labour county councillor, asked: “On the accidental discharge of young people - surely the mistake wasn’t just a clerical error but came from senior leadership?”

READ MORE: ‘Potentially devastating’: Dozens of children left waiting for eating disorder treatment

Dr Maxwell said: “It wasn’t a straightforward clerical error. It was in part a decision based on what we were having to plan for in terms of the pandemic.

“At the outset of the pandemic, we knew we had a lot of young people on our services. We were expecting to lose 50pc of our staff, due to being unwell or being redeployed. We were acutely aware we were going to have a lot of young people with nothing offered to them.”

She said the trust created an advice and signposting service to reach out to young people, and offered them a ‘window’ to contact the trust for support - after which they would be discharged.

READ MORE: ‘Slid to the bottom of the pile’ - patient’s anger at remote mental health services during lockdown

“I apologise for the distress that caused,” she added. “As soon as we had people raise concerns about it, we revisited that decision and we wrote to apologise every single person we sent the letter to.”

Dr Dan Dalton, chief medical officer, added: “It has been extremely challenging getting it right during the pandemic.

“This clearly was something where we got it wrong.

“I’m absolutely confident it was done for the right reasons.”

READ MORE: Mental health service sends letter to 300 young people removing them from waiting list


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