A meeting took place between NSFT chiefs and health stakeholders in Suffolk last week to discuss closer working between the organisations for the benefit of local service users.
Healthwatch, Suffolk Parent Carers Network (SPCN) and Suffolk User Forum – key stakeholder groups representing the views and concerns of local patients and carers – met with Interim CEO Julie Cave, Chair Gary Page and NSFT’s Operations Director in Suffolk, Pete Devlin, to discuss how the organisations can establish closer lines of communications and support.
The aim is to ultimately ensure wider groups of service users and carers can be better kept informed and involved in developments around local mental health services provided by NSFT, and that the organisations’ representatives were kept aware of significant issues which might affect patient’s care.
All three of the stakeholder groups offered their continued support to the Trust while it continues to make quality improvements, taking a stronger focus on the safety and sustainability of services.
Julie Cave (pictured) said: “We really welcomed the continued support offered and had a very positive meeting. All of our organisations share the fundamental aim of improving local mental health services for local people, informed by local people. So, it makes perfect sense to lend closer support to each other in this collective aim.
“As a Trust we need to ensure we take every opportunity to call on the invaluable support on offer, and to ensure we keep our stakeholders well informed and fully involved while we continue in our quality improvement work.
“At NSFT we have had an exceptional rate of change and improvement over the past six months that needed to be actioned immediately. And we have been working very closely with our commissioners and regulators in planning and delivering those changes.
“The focus has been the safety in our services, putting in place actions that can ensure our patients are being cared for safely and appropriately, and if we felt that was in any way at risk, taking affirmative and immediate action.
“I think it would be fair to say that due to that rate of change it has been harder to involve wider stakeholder groups in those decisions than we might have been able to previously. But as we now move out of the urgent phase and we are developing our ongoing improvement plans we should, once again, establish that close stakeholder working, wherever we can.”
One of the issues discussed at the meeting in Ipswich last week was the recent temporary closure of the Trust’s psychiatric intensive care unit.
Julie added: “We accept that our communication to some of our stakeholders on this difficult situation could have been better. We have taken on board their suggestions and comments and are keen to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
As a result of the meeting it was agreed that more regular updates would encourage a better sharing of information and awareness between the agencies, and they agreed to meet again next month to consider how things are moving forward.
Jayne Davey (left), of Suffolk User Forum, said: “SUF very much welcomed the opportunity to take part in this multi-stakeholder meeting. We share the concerns expressed by others about the loss, even temporally, of local Lark Ward in-patient beds for some of the most vulnerable unwell people in Suffolk. We are worried about patient safety and best interests in the wake of the closure and have expressed concerns about the lack of good communications around the decision.
“SUF however want to support the NSFT urgent current improvement programme and will work positively and productively with NSFT professional colleagues, where there are some good relationships, and especially with Peter Devlin, the Operations Director for Suffolk.
“The key consideration now is to ensure that people in Suffolk always have access to appropriate services in times of distress. The only way this can be achieved is if all partners involved in the provision of mental health services work together, fully involving and having regard for the experiences, needs and wishes of service users. This applies to both the shorter and longer-term challenges.
Anne Humphrys (left) of SPCN said “Suffolk Parent Carer Network were pleased to be part of a meeting which was able to discuss in a direct and transparent way the concerns of service users, carers and stakeholders in relation to the closure of Lark ward and the associated communication issues.
“The acknowledgement that working together in co-production is better for service users and their families is welcomed by SPCN, as their needs and wishes are better represented. We are therefore pleased that NSFT will be working more closely with their stakeholders going forward as we know it will have a great impact on the successful improvement of practice within the Trust.
Andy Yacoub (left), CEO of Healthwatch Suffolk said: “Healthwatch Suffolk very much welcomed this invitation from Julie Cave, to have a candid and open conversation about communication and engagement by the Trust in general, with leaders of the Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust and key stakeholders, but also specifically about the closure of Lark Ward in Ipswich.
“I believe that the Trust had little choice but to close the remaining 7 beds at the Ward until it is safe to open some and/or all again. That said, the Trust leaders now understand that the process of making this decision, and communicating its intentions, with patients/carers, staff and external stakeholders, could and should have been managed in a better way.
“I left this meeting feeling that the Trust leaders are committed to becoming more transparent about their decision-making processes, and that beds would be re-opened at the earliest opportunity.
“I also believe that Julie and her team genuinely felt they had learnt valuable lessons from this situation and this particular meeting. Future such meetings have been promised, albeit in advance of similar decisions, rather than as a review.”