In September 2016 the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that the North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) required improvement. The Trust is responsible for delivering integrated community and mental health services for Barking and Dagenham, Havering, and Waltham Forest also including parts of Essex. With just 6,000 staff they care for a total of 2.5 million people.
Jon Cruddas MP for Dagenham and Rainham explained that this service is an integral part of the local NHS provision, and that over the course of the last few years mental health related issues have become more prominent. Jon's office takes up an average of 800 cases from local residents per week, and of this it is estimated that two in five will have an aspect of mental ill health.
Jon commented: "NELFT provides a vital service in my constituency, and with increasing local need it is important that it receives the right level of support. However, I fear where services such as this fit into the current tory government agenda. Reduced funding and cuts to staff/services, are leaving local facilities overstretched, understaffed and often at breaking point."
Since September, NELFT has released the results of a recent employee survey. It reveals a Trust where staff are working incredibly hard to improve services provided to patients with limited resources and personnel. A staggering three quarters of respondents are working extra hours just to keep the service going at its current level, let alone be in a position to improve the Trust to the required standard. A larger proportion than the national average of replies felt unsatisfied with available resources and support. Tellingly, only half of the responses would recommend others to work at NELFT.
The extra strain on staff is apparent. Almost half who responded on the survey are becoming unwell due to work related stress. Jon Cruddas MP for Dagenham and Rainham responded to the recent findings: "It is abundantly clear that staff are dedicated to delivering the best they can for patients; so much so that almost three quarters attend work when they themselves are unwell. This is not something to be championed; and we are currently faced with an untenable situation where staff are overstretched, and not receiving the support they need to deliver the best possible service for residents."
The determination of the team still manages to shine through despite constraints to funding, and staffing by central government. Their diligence has resulted in a nomination at the Patient Safety Awards for a project designed to detect signs of deterioration of the community's most vulnerable elderly residents.
Good mental health is an essential part of a thriving society. The recent staff survey is evidence of dedication, but also highlights that the service and staff are being let down by underfunding and under resourcing from the Tory government. The Trust is still in need of much improvement and in the coming months Jon Cruddas MP will be meeting with representatives to discuss a way forward.