People Could Get A Say On Mental Health

Patients could get a greater input into the provision of services for people with mental health problems if the county’s bid for foundation status is approved. The Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust has launched a three-month public consultation for the plans to become a foundation trust. It would be part of the NHS but would be directly accountable to the population it serves, have more financial independence and would be able to hand over governance of local services to people in the area.

If the bid was successful the foundation trust would seek to recruit at least 4,500 members from the community and from its own staff. Members can become involved as much as they like.

A board of governors would be elected from the membership. Governors have the power to appoint non-executives of the trust and the trust chairman. They also oversee the appointment of the chief executive.

Trust chairman Maggie Wheeler said: “The real attraction to us is that we would become self-governing within, and with the support of, our local community and have the opportunity to establish a sound and much more stable financial base on which to build even stronger services.”

If the trust becomes an NHS Foundation Trust it will be subject to NHS standards and systems of inspection and monitoring such as by the Healthcare Commission.

More than a quarter of people experience mental health problems. The trust hopes the foundation plans will raise the profile of mental health issues.

The plans could be news for mental health campaigners who have opposed decisions made by the trust in the past. An influential patient watchdog snubbed talks with the mental health trust over the care of elderly people with dementia after claims that the public consultation over the closure of homes was flawed.

The consultation process was launched 18 months ago. The Patient and Public Involvement Forum (PPI) wanted councillors to refer the decision to axe services for the elderly and mentally ill to the Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, but a meeting of the Norfolk health overview and scrutiny committee last month voted not to refer the matter. The PPI was launching a last ditch attempt to prevent the closure of two care units for elderly people with specialist needs. The number of beds available will be slashed from 101 to 28.

The health watchdog had hoped councillors would step in over the closures of Rebecca House in North Walsham and Cygnet House in Long Stratton. Ellacombe House in Ella Road, Norwich, has closed, despite the trust claiming no decision would be made until a full consultation had been carried out.