Mental Health Care ‘Just Not Good Enough’

Calls have been made for major improvements in mental health services in Norfolk amid fears that patients are not being properly cared for. The concerns have been voiced as a national report this week revealed the NHS is failing people with mental health problems because of a belief that they “just do die younger”. The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) said the Government could face a legal challenge under new laws unless it takes action to stamp out discrimination. Mental health campaigners in Norfolk have hit out at recent plans which could see two wards at Hellesdon Hospital close and dozens of vulnerable patients being left with limited care.

Although the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust claimed the proposals were at an early stage, staff said they were called to a meeting by trust bosses and told they would all have to apply for limited posts.

A carer for somebody with mental health problems said the ordeal of seeking and obtaining help was the “worst nightmare” imaginable. The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I am a qualified mental nurse and was ashamed to be associated with the so-called service which now exists. “I discovered that there was no consistency from one day to the next, in almost every area.

“There is an absence of interest from many staff because wards were being restructured and relocated in preparation for a large number of redundancies. I find myself appalled at the way the service provision is being eroded by stealth.”

Peter Gianfrancesco, chief executive of Norwich MIND, said: “If wards are being closed down and savings are not being reinvested, this would be of great concern to MIND. If resources are in place people can much more have their needs met in the community. But even in good community-based services often people with mental health problems’ mental and physical needs are not adequately explored and written off.”

Earlier this year a centre which has helped thousands of people suffering from depression closed. The Mind, Body and Soul Centre had been funded by the Big Lottery Fund but the cash ran out.

The DRC report highlighted “diagnostic overshadowing”, whereby patients may have physical symptoms blamed on a mental health problem or learning disability and are therefore denied proper NHS care.

Patients may also fall through the gap between the NHS and social services, despite the fact they are far more likely to suffer health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust spokeswoman Nicola Brown said: “We agree with your correspondent that mental health services require adequate investment in order to be able to meet people’s needs. We have to provide these services in accordance with what we are being paid for and in the best clinical interests of the service users.

“We are tasked this year with reducing our expenditure by more than £5m, to plug a gap in the funding we receive. However, this is being done in a clinically safe way.”

There’s just not enough help:
Richard Squire used to live in Taylor Road, West Earlham. The 45-year-old is physically and mentally disabled but was made homeless last summer. He was convicted of possessing a firearm and evicted for allegedly damaging the Norwich City Council owned house he lived in. He has complex personality disorders and is confined to a wheelchair because he only has one leg.

Despite having been in Hellesdon Hospital on several occasions he has always been discharged into the community. His family and neighbours have called for proper residential care where his mental health is monitored on a daily basis and criticised the mental health authorities for not helping him.

His sister Sandra Groom, 57, said: “There is just not enough help out there for people with physical and mental health problems. I don’t know what has happened to my brother now but he has mental health problems as well as being physically disabled and nothing has been done for him. He even got evicted from his home.

“I don’t believe in care in the community because there are some people who need more than that. There should be long term residential care for those with serious problems.”