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Mental health trust split claims rubbished by chief executive

PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 May 2018 | UPDATED: 07:57 19 May 2018

Antek Lejk, chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). Photo: NSFT

Antek Lejk, chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). Photo: NSFT

NSFT

The region’s mental health trust has hit back at claims from campaigners that plans are afoot to split into two organisations.

The Campaign to Save Mental Health in Norfolk and Suffolk wrote to NHS leaders this week airing their concerns about the alleged plans.

Their letter, sent to NHS England and NHS Improvement, said two letters sent from representatives in Norfolk and Suffolk proposed Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) be split into two, and return to having separate organisations for each county.

In Norfolk, they said it would mean mental health services were merged with Norfolk Community Health and Care. While in Suffolk they said it would mean mental health care came under the remit of the hospitals.

But NSFT chief executive Antek Lejk said the trust was focussing on “improving the quality of services rather than on our organisational structure”.

He said instead, the letters were seeking more integrated ways of working and “all of that has been very open, and nothing in the letters does anything other than suggest these possibilities should be discussed further and that there would be support for further consideration”.

But he did not write off the possibility of a split in the future. He said: “If, in the future - and following consultation with service users, the public, staff and partners - the systems in Suffolk or Norfolk and Waveney propose new organisational arrangements, we will work with that and make the solution the right one for our patients and for our staff.

“But right now our total focus is on the best interests of mental health service users in each locality and improving the services they receive.”

Campaigners rejected that the letters were just about integration and told leaders they were concerned “distracting and bureaucratic” reorganisation while NSFT was still in special measures would be damaging.

They said: “Our fear is that the de-merger proposal is a clumsy and bureaucratic attempt to find a solution to the NSFT problem by renaming, splitting and recommissioning mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk rather than addressing the real problems with front line services.”

The letters sent from the Norfolk and Waveney sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) included the signature of Mr Lejk, as designate chief executive of NSFT.

Campaigners claim the letters were not seen by the NSFT board before they were sent - a move they call a “breakdown in ethical behaviour”.

However a spokesman for the trust said the board would not need to sign the letter and “is fully sighted on the overarching issues and considerations about the possibilities for wider systems changes”.

They added NSFT chair Gary Page and interim cheif executive Julie Cave both agreed to the letters being sent and asked Mr Lejk to sign them.

Simon Evans, locality director for NHS England Midlands and East - one organisation to which the letters were sent - said: “NHS England is not aware of any plans to split Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.”

An NHS Improvement spokesman added: “Any proposals for organisational change made to NHS Improvement would need to clearly set out the potential benefits for service users and families.”

NCHC NHS Trust CEO, Roisin Fallon-Williams, said: “We have been working closely with our Norfolk and Waveney STP colleagues, strengthening how we work to support the improvement and further integration of services as part of the planned approach for the system. We will continue to work together to support the right outcomes for service users and their families. As has been said, should in the future the system propose new structural arrangements to further support these endeavours, this would be subject to the appropriate consultation processes.”

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