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Mental health trust boss vows to tackle out-of-area placements

PUBLISHED: 06:30 31 October 2019 | UPDATED: 10:03 31 October 2019

Professor Jonathan Warren, new chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Picture: NSFT

Professor Jonathan Warren, new chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Picture: NSFT

Justin Setterfield

The boss of the region's mental health trust says he can "only imagine" the distress of patients placed in out-of-area beds, as he pledged to cut occupancy rates.

Stuart Richardson Chief Operating Officer at Norwich and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) Photo:NSFTStuart Richardson Chief Operating Officer at Norwich and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) Photo:NSFT

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has faced criticism over the scandal for years, which has seen scores of patients shipped across the country for treatment.

And chief executive Jonathan Warren has described ending the practice as a "top priority", and said the trust has been working "relentlessly" to bring the number of placements down.

The crisis reached a peak in April this year, with 75 patients sent out of county for treatment.

But that figure has plummeted, with 12 patients now being treated in out-of-area beds - a rise of three since the trust's annual general meeting earlier this month.

Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk published a graph showing out of area transportation bed days at NSFT from NHS Digital from April 2016 to August 2019. Picture: Campagin to Save Mental Health Service N&SCampaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk published a graph showing out of area transportation bed days at NSFT from NHS Digital from April 2016 to August 2019. Picture: Campagin to Save Mental Health Service N&S

REAF MORE: 'It is distressing' - Mental health patients still being sent for out of county care

Speaking at a meeting of the county council's health and wellbeing board on Wednesday, October 30, Mr Warren said ending the practice was a top priority for the health service.

"I just want to talk a little bit about so-called inappropriate out-of-area placements," he said.

"I can only imagine how it must feel for someone to be so distressed to have to use one of our beds, and then for us to have to transfer them out of the county.

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"It's not something we want to do and we've worked relentlessly since I arrived to bring that down.

"It's one of the top priorities."

READ MORE: Improving figures, but mental health campaigners say more needs to be done or 'expect more deaths'

Patricia Hewitt, a former health minister, and chair of Norfolk's sustainability and transformation partnership (STP), said: "Two years ago, out-of-area placements were probably the thing that most symbolised and reflected that anger of a lot of service users and campaigners about what had gone wrong at the trust."

Out-of-area beds are associated with longer stays for patients and have cost the trust between £6-7m this year, Mr Warren said, as well as limiting control of patient care.

But he added: "Compared to the rest of the country last year we were the third worst exporter of patients in the country.

"We would now be significantly lower than that."

And speaking after the meeting, he added: "This is a clinically led process to ensure that beds are used as effectively as possible.

"We do have real support from our social services colleagues, our district council colleagues and the voluntary sector.

"We want to be at 85pc bed occupancy rates."

READ MORE: Mental health patients in 'acute distress' STILL sent miles away five years after pledge to end practice

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