Increased use puts pressure on Norfolk and Waveney mental health trust

Mental health ward at Hellesdon Hospital
Image caption The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust manages mental health wards at Hellesdon Hospital near Norwich

A 38% increase in mental health patients referred to an NHS Trust has hit waiting times, a report has found.

The increase in the Norfolk and Waveney area in the December 2014 to February 2015 period - compared with April to June 2014 - resulted in higher staff caseload levels, the report said.

There has also been an increase in the number of cases not allocated a care worker at the trust.

Between November and January the number of these cases rose from 662 to 960.

The report by the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), which provides mental health care, highlights the fact that while mainstream hospitals in the two counties have seen budgets rise by 15% since 2010, mental health service funding has fallen by 3%.

Image caption The trust manages a number of Section 136 suites, which are set aside for patients who are detained by police under the Mental Health Act for their own safety

In the report, its author Marcus Hayward, locality operations manager of the NSFT, says: "The increase in referrals is putting pressure on community services and resulting in higher caseload levels, waiting times and unallocated caseloads.

"The high referral rate has also reduced capacity to provide ongoing monitoring and crises prevention."

Debbie White, NSFT director of operations for Norfolk and Waveney, said: "The increase in referrals to our services is in line with demand on mental health services nationally, as is the ongoing challenge of recruiting qualified nursing staff due to a national shortage of registered nurses.

"As a result of the number of referrals to our trust there has been an increase in the number of patients on our waiting lists, also known as unallocated cases.

"It is regrettable that patients have to wait but we have implemented a number of measures to ensure they have regular contact with our trust."

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: "It shows how badly funding is needed and shows how much demand has increased."

In February the NSFT became the first mental health trust to be put in special measures.

The decision came after the Care Quality Commission reported the trust was "not a safe... service".

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