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New mental health beds to be opened for children and young people

The Dragonfly Unit based at Carlton Court. Picture: NSFT.

The Dragonfly Unit based at Carlton Court. Picture: NSFT.

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New mental health beds for children and young people are set to open in the region after a review found current services were not enough.

The Dragonfly Unit, in Carlton Colville. Photo: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. The Dragonfly Unit, in Carlton Colville. Photo: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

Children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are being looked at nationally, while locally a complete overhaul of services is expected in the coming months and years.

But a review found that in the meantime, until the shake-up takes place, there was not enough support on offer for those most severely affected by mental ill health

A letter sent to MPs Clive Lewis, Sir Henry Bellingham, Keith Simpson, and Sandy Martin - and seen by this newspaper - said “the current service type available within the region does not meet that required to address the level of risk and mental health presentation of the young people in the interim period”.

But now £480k will be invested by NHS England to enable Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust (NSFT) to increase its bed numbers at the Dragonfly Unit at Carlton Colville, Lowestoft from seven to 12, in a phased approach by 1 January 2019.

The unit was the only part of NSFT to be rated outstanding by regulators last year, when the trust was placed into special measures.

The trust recently closed 36 beds - 28 temporarily - in part due to a recruitment crisis and lack of staff.

Norwich South Labour MP Mr Lewis, one of those who wrote to the NHS asking for change, said: “Service users, staff and loved ones have been saying for years we need more mental health beds so it’s good news that at long last someone seems to be listening. But we are going to need more than just stop-gap solutions like this to put things right and that means action from government.”

While Keith Simpson, Conservative MP for Broadland, said the news was a sign of cross-party working in the region’s interests.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Picture: Yui Mok Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Picture: Yui Mok

He said: “I think we all recognised the fact there was a shortage, the significance [of mental health] has been highlighted over the last few years and I think all parties have said more must be done.”

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk added: “Of course we welcome this news. However, it is amazing that this newly-built and expensive NHS provision remained unused for years as young people were transported miles away to private hospitals across the country.

“Now, commissioners need to listen to the CQC and recognise that mental health services, inpatient and in the community, are inadequate and fund them properly.”

The Dragonfly Unit opened in September 2016, at a cost of £1m.

Broadland MP Keith Simpson Broadland MP Keith Simpson

It is the only place providing beds specifically for children in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Debbie White, NSFT Operations Director, said: “These funds and extra beds will make a huge difference to young people in Norfolk and Suffolk with complex mental health needs as more young people than ever will be able to access the specialist help and support they need closer to home.”

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