1. ITV Report

Revealed: Life on the frontline of troubled mental health trust

Norfolk and Suffolk's mental health trust remains in special measures. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Inspectors have returned to Norfolk and Suffolk's troubled mental health trust as its latest chief executive vows to lead it out of special measures.

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has been rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission three times, with concerns including a lack of beds, staff and what was branded a "toxic" culture.

Now, ITV News Anglia has been given exclusive access to the wards at Hellesdon Hospital to speak to the staff on the frontline who are striving to improve - as well as hearing from new chief executive Jonathan Warren.

  • Click below for a full report from ITV News Anglia's Rob Setchell.

"My staff don't come here to do an inadequate job or an awful job. They come here to treat people who are suffering and going through trauma. I think we're trying to focus on the positives that are going on and to improve."

– John Bingham, Matron

The trust's problems date back several years.

In 2013, chief executive Aidan Thomas resigned during a 'radical redesign' of services, which involved cutting hundreds of jobs.

Michael Scott took over in 2014 but the mental health trust became the first in the country to be put in special measures.

Scott retired in 2017, weeks before another inadequate rating which highlighted a lack of beds and staff.

Antek Lejk took charge last year but, after a third inadequate rating and calls for the Government to step in, he left in March.

Now, Mr Warren has taken over and he insists the trust are "showing some signs of improvement".

He says the trust now has 170 more clinical staff than it did last August and that the numbers of "restrictive interventions" - including seclusions and restraints - have reduced dramatically.

"I've worked in mental health all my life," he said. "I started in 1983 as a young nurse in Surrey."

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"I've worked in trusts which have improved from being in some difficulty to be rated outstanding. So, I've been here before. I know what we've got to do. It takes time, it takes energy and it takes commitment - and I've given that commitment to this trust."

– Jonathan Warren, NSFT Chief Executive

It comes on World Mental Health Day and as the trust holds its Annual General Meeting.

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Staff at the trust said a change of leadership structure had led to a change of approach - and that they were hopeful of real improvement.

Some campaigners remain sceptical - particularly about challenges surrounding funding and a lack of specialist staff.

But the decision on whether the country's worst performing mental health trust has turned a corner rests with the Care Quality Commission, which is expected to publish its latest report later this year.