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East Anglian mental health trust in special measures as figures reveal £9m cost of staff changes

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An under-fire mental health trust operating in Norfolk and Suffolk has become ‘the first of its kind’ to be placed in special measures following a report from watchdogs.

Monitor, the regulator for UK health services, confirmed last week the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust will be put under closer supervision to rectify ‘serious problems’ identified by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

An improvement director, Alan Yates, has been appointed to move the trust forward.

It follows an inspection by the CQC which noted serious failings in patient safety and staff morale.

Meanwhile an action group accused the trust of misspending its budget, with figures revealing it spent nearly £9 million on staff changes and redundancies from 2012 to 2014.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save NHS Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: “NSFT becoming the first mental health trust to be put into special measures was inevitable.

“Our main concern is service users and frontline staff are not made to pay the price.

“Commissioners need to agree a unified mental health strategy with NSFT and give realistic long term funding.”

The trust’s annual report shows it spent £8.92 million on redundancies and ‘reconfiguration costs’ and £8.23 million on purchasing healthcare from non-NHS bodies between 2012 and 2014.

Michael Scott, the trust’s chief executive, said: “Although disappointing, it is not a surprise to us, coming as it does after the CQC’s recommendations in January.

“But as we made clear then, we recognise we need to improve the care we provide and carefully manage our finances to a healthier position.

“We will be learning from other organisations and every single member of staff at this Trust will have a part to play in getting us back on track.”

Addressing the issue of staff expenditure, a spokesman for the trust said the ‘reconfiguration’ was the result of a merger and had involved 294 redundancies since 2011, but was completed in summer 2014.

He added the trust is reducing spending on agency staff and appointed more than 300 new staff since January 2014, including ten nurses recently recruited for west Suffolk.

Anne Topping, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: “This outcome will give additional focus to the Trust to concentrate on further improving its patient services.

“It is imperative that commissioners and the Trust take extraordinary steps to deliver the services people in Norfolk and Suffolk deserve.”