Former Norfolk/Suffolk Mental Health Worker Speaks Out

A woman who used to work for Norfolk and Suffolk's Mental Health Trust has exclusively told Heart things got so bad she took early retirement.

Dr Anne Reeve, from Ipswich, has been speaking to us after a report by the Care Quality Commission rated the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust as 'inadequate'.

It said the trust, which provides mental health and learning disability services to people all across Norfolk and Suffolk, needs to make a number of improvements to ensure it is always delivering safe, effective and responsive care.

Dr Reeve worked with children and young people in Suffolk before taking an early retirement. She told Heart: "It's not a surprise at all. It's sad but it's what I would have expected having worked there up until last year.

"Things got so bad which led to my decision to take early retirement. When I had that opportunity (to retire) I decided I would as I couldn't put my name to what was going to be happening in the future.

"I was lucky because I was able to do that and I felt very sorry for the other staff who had to carry on in extremely difficult circumstances."

The concerns have now been referred to the health sector regulator - Monitor, while the Chief Inspector of Hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards is recommending the trust be put into special measures.

Dr Reeve told us the findings were as she expected, blaming a change in management as a contributing factor to the pressure.

She added: "There were many days when we were struggling to find in-patient units for young people. There was one time where we were contacting 25 to 30 units within the country and just getting a 'no' every single time. That really is so disheartening - the thing you really don't want to do is move children away from their families and their friends, and knowing that that may be the only thing you can do is very, very hard.

"Another day seeing your colleagues being very upset by the experiences they're having to go through is very distressing so your heart goes out to both the families and your colleagues in that situation.

"The staff morale was very poor. I noticed in the report there were comments that the staff had found it traumatic and that was exactly my experience of what happened."

Ms Reeve praised her ex-colleagues for their dedication and said she hopes the result of the inspection will drive improvements. She added: "People say that I'm smiling all the time now, whereas I wasn't before."

The Chief Executive of the Trust Michael Scott has told Heart the key to making improvements is having sufficient staff and that more doctors and nurses have been recruited in the last year to ease pressure. He added that he is confident the trust will be turned around.

Additionally, in a statement Mr Scott said: “Our priority is to make sure we work with staff to improve the services we provide across Norfolk and Suffolk. The CQC report states that… ‘Overall, we saw that staff were kind, caring and responsive to people and were skilled in the delivery of care’. On behalf of the Board I’d like to thank staff for their support and dedication and underline our commitment to work with staff to improve our services.

“We are under new management, the new team is bedding in, and there is no complacency on our part about the need to continue to deliver improvements. I would like to assure our patients, staff and our partners that this is a turning point for the Trust and we will continue to do everything possible to address all of the recommendations the CQC has made.”

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