Norfolk and Suffolk mental health funding plan prompts dispute

Mental health ward at Hellesdon Hospital
Image caption The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust has a number of mental health wards across the counties

Cash for future mental health provision in Norfolk and Suffolk has "fallen short" of what is needed, prompting a dispute with an NHS trust and a funder.

Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust said funding offered by central Norfolk clinical commissioning groups (CCG) does not meet the "volume of demand".

A trust board meeting was told the CCGs were "not commissioning sufficient capacity" in beds or staffing levels.

The central Norfolk CCGs said they were still in negotiations.

At the meeting Andrew Hopkins, director of finance, said funding arrangements had been agreed with all its CCGs apart from central Norfolk.

Image caption Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust's chief executive Michael Scott does not believe there is 'adequate funding for mental health'

The meeting heard the plans put forward by central Norfolk CCGs did not provide enough funds for out of area placements, when no beds can be found in the area.

There were also issues surrounding staffing levels.

In previous years, the trust has been criticised over the need to send patients outside of Norfolk and Suffolk due to a shortage of mental health beds.

The BBC revealed that in November last year the cost of sending Norfolk and Suffolk mental patients to other parts of the country almost tripled to £600,000, from an average of £200,000 a month in December 2013 to September 2014.

In December, the trust said the number outside the counties had been cut to 24 from a high of 50 earlier in the year.

'Cinderella service'

Non-executive director John Brierley said: "The issue is the commissioners are not commissioning sufficient capacity to the volume of demand."

If no agreement is made the dispute will go to arbitration where a final decision is made by NHS England and health watchdog Monitor.

Trust chief executive Michael Scott said after the meeting: "We don't think there is adequate funding for mental health. It remains the Cinderella service.

Image copyright Andy Parrett/Geograph
Image caption The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust is based at Hellesdon Hospital on the outskirts of Norwich

"In some areas such as Suffolk and Great Yarmouth and Waveney we have managed to agree funding.

"Unfortunately across central Norfolk we are unable to agree and we have to go to arbitration."

A Norfolk CCGs spokesman said: "CCGs across Norwich, South Norfolk and North Norfolk are still in discussions with the trust regarding the 15/16 contracting year.

"All parties are hopeful of a swift conclusion to current negotiations."

In February, this year the trust became the first of its kind in England to be put in special measures due to it not providing a "safe service".

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