Norfolk social worker warns mental health service 'in crisis'

Norfolk and Suffolk's NHS mental health services merged in 2012 and must save £40m over the next four years Norfolk and Suffolk's NHS mental health services merged in 2012 and must save £40m over four years

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A social worker has claimed a cash-strapped mental health service has been left in "crisis" by a series of crippling financial cutbacks.

Terry Skyrme, who is due to retire after 17 years with the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, spoke out over bed shortages.

The trust has had to make £20m of savings over the past two years and faces a £1m deficit this year.

A trust spokesman said it recognised there were "areas for improvement".

Terry Skyrme Terry Skyrme said when he joined the mental health service in Norfolk, the county had one of the best outreach teams (working with people with mental health) in the country

Mr Skyrme, 68, who has been a social worker since 1972, said he was once proud of the "fantastic" service provided by the trust.

"If it wasn't for the bed crisis I would have stayed," he said.

"I would take pride in my job. If someone had to be detained and that was best for the patient then you found a bed for them, but if there are no beds, you can't do anything to help them. Morale has been destroyed.

"In Norfolk they need to fund proper community care and find the beds and restore funding levels."

Empty wards at Carlton Court in Lowestoft The trust has announced plans to close Carlton Court, in Lowestoft

In July the BBC revealed that bed capacity had been cut by nearly 100 over the past four years. Some patients have had to be sent up to 200 miles (321km) for a bed.

Next week a final decision is to be made on cutting a further 20 beds and a mental health assessment suite at Carlton Court in Lowestoft, which the trust has announced plans to close.

Mr Skyrme, who retires on 1 October, said he was pleased with the trust's recognition that there were areas for improvement.

Debbie White, the trust's director of operations, said: "We have acknowledged that there are areas for improvement in the trust and we continue to address these.

"We wish Terry the best of luck in his future endeavours and thank him for his years of service."

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