Mental health services to be discussed

OLDER people's mental health services in Norfolk will be discussed at a meeting of Norfolk County Council's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee next week.

OLDER people's mental health services in Norfolk will be discussed at a meeting of Norfolk County Council's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee next week.

At the meeting on Thursday, Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust will present an evaluation of its new Intensive Support Unit, which was set up to help prevent mental health hospital admissions and assist people who are in hospital to get home earlier. The trust had expected to be able to close two wards at the Julian Hospital in Norwich as a result of the work of the new unit. One of the wards has already closed but the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee will hear at the meeting that the closure of a second 18 bed ward is not recommended at present. The trust is proposing to develop a new service for patients with dementia over the next six months and at the same time reduce the number of in-patient beds at the Julian Hospital.

Janice Eells, Chairman of the Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said: “With a 48 per cent increase in the number of people with dementia in Norfolk predicted up to 2021, the committee will be seeking reassurance from the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust that its plans for both in-patient beds and community care will be adequate to meet future demand.”

At the meeting a report that sets out a number of improvements that could be made to reduce the negative effects of housing on physical and mental health will also be discussed.

The Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee set up a working group in 2005 to look at the impact of housing, both publicly and privately owned, on people's well-being in Norfolk. The group was established in response to what it felt was a “crisis in housing, which meant long waiting lists and people living in conditions that are far from conducive to good physical and mental health”.

In November the committee approved a document containing 44 recommendations which were made on the basis of the working group's findings. These were submitted to Local Area Agreement (LAA) Housing Outcome Champion in Norfolk, Philip Burton. The response to these recommendations will be discussed at the meeting on Thursday and members will have the chance to question Karen Hill, the Head of Strategic Housing at North Norfolk District Council and LAA Housing Indicator Lead, who put together the response.

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The committee will also have the opportunity to question representatives from NHS Norfolk, the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust and NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney on the out-of-hours services they provide.

Last year, members heard there were some difficulties with the extent of out-of-hours district nursing cover for central Norfolk, including concerns that the reduction from three to two out-of-hours nurses on duty per night meant that patients might have to wait longer for treatments that they urgently require. A progress report from NHS Norfolk details the progress that has been made since then including the reintroduction of a third member of the out-of-hours team until 31 October 2009 while a review of the out-of-hours services is being carried out.

At the meeting the committee will hear about the full range of out-of-hours services provided by the NHS locally and decide whether they are satisfied that Norfolk residents are getting a good standard of care through these services.

The meeting, which is open to the public, will begin at 10am and take place at County Hall in Norwich.