Crunch talks between MPs and inspectors over mental health trust future

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis wants NSFT to go into special administration. Photo: PA

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis wants NSFT to go into special administration. Photo: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

MPs will demand answers over the future of the region’s mental health trust at a meeting with regulators.

Norman Lamb MP. 
Photo:  PA / Steve ParsonsNorman Lamb MP. Photo: PA / Steve Parsons

Norfolk and Suffolk MPs will meet with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) after Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) was placed into special measures for the third time last week.

But questions have been asked over whether strong enough action has been taken considering the organisation has now failed multiple times.

Clive Lewis, Labour’s Norwich South MP, demanded NSFT be placed into special administration - a classification kept strictly for the very worst of health organisations and used just two times before.

He said: “If this sorry saga of failure and harm to patients isn’t serious enough, what exactly would count as bad enough to trigger special administration?”

Dr Paul Lelliott, Care Quality Commission. Photo: Philip WolmuthDr Paul Lelliott, Care Quality Commission. Photo: Philip Wolmuth

He was joined in his call by Paul Farmer, from mental health charity Mind, campaigners, and North Norfolk Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, who said he needed to see evidence there was a clear action plan.

Mr Lewis, who along with other MPs from the region will meet with the CQC on Wednesday, said: “The CQC has the power to put NSFT into special administration. So I’m prioritising talking to the CQC before I’m subjected once again to NSFT management’s now customary litany of excuses and promises which never come to pass.

“NSFT is an organisation which continually fails - often over and over again on the same points. So I’ll be asking what evidence is there that gives the CQC, the Department of Health, NHS England any confidence that persistent failure will not continue?”

Dr Paul Lelliott, England’s chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, said last week: “We certainly have not ruled out recommending to the secretary of state that he appoints a special administrator.”

Sandy Martin (Labour), Suffolk county councillor for Ipswich St Johns. Photo: SuppliedSandy Martin (Labour), Suffolk county councillor for Ipswich St Johns. Photo: Supplied

Mr Lewis added: “That inspector works for the CQC. So I’ll be pushing hard to find out why the CQC aren’t going for special administration now.”

Mr Lamb, a former health minister, added: “The regulatory system has failed. The focus has been on the trust and how it has not improved but also NHS Improvement (the body which oversees foundation trusts) has had an improvement director in there for over a year and the CQC has recorded this deterioration but the whole point of the inspections and regulators is the improve things for the better. It’s not working and I need to see action. I think there needs to be a personal involvement of the secretary of state.”

And pressure was mounting on the health secretary Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, to make the call as the Suffolk Parent Carer Network wrote to Mr Hancock advocating the splitting of the trust.

The letter said: “We are concerned that there appears to be no action being taken other than remaining in special measures and a very vague mention that NSFT need to improve by ‘the Spring’. Our families cannot wait that long.”

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge Photo: Gregg BrownSouth Suffolk MP James Cartlidge Photo: Gregg Brown

However, Ipswich MP Sandy Martin, for Labour, felt bosses should be given more time to turn it around.

Mr Martin said he had met with Antek Lejk, the chief executive of NSFT, a few days ago to discuss the issues at the trust.

Many of the staff, said Mr Martin, had only been at the trust for a relatively short period of time, with the chief nurse only having spent a matter of days in the role.

“We should call for a full CQC inspection at the end of January,” said Mr Martin. “Mr Lejk said it would be feasible.”

However, if changes weren’t made following such a report then Mr Martin said then more radical change would be needed. He agreed that at that stage the trust would have to be placed into special administration with services being split between the respective counties.

“We can’t give them any more time than that,” he added.

Mr Martin said that he would be calling on his fellow local MPs to back his plan when they meet on Wednesday morning.

Conservative South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said: “The future of the trusts is incredibly important. I want to see it sorted out and improve.

“I hope that the NHS take whatever the appropriate solutions.”

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