The problems at the Maudsley have to be considered as part of a mental health crisis across the country

(21 November, 2018) Editorials

All too often the NHS has to make the best of what it is given. And since the ‘age of austerity’, what has been given, is not enough

7974Maudsley Hospital, part of South London and Maudlsey NHS Trust

When the Chief Executive of the South London and Maudsley Trust says his staff are doing ‘their best every day, often in difficult circumstances’ you cannot help but truly sympathise, despite their acute care being labelled ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission.

Upon reading their report you are struck by the huge amount of pressure those on the frontline are under and the sheer lack of staff and resources to cope with the situation. And it would be all too easy for us to sit at a distance and simply criticise the hospital based on the findings of this latest report.

The needs of those suffering from mental health issues are wholly inadequate across the length and breadth of the country. That is precisely why the government in its latest budget has made £2 billion available for increased services, including a mental health ‘hot line.’ Chancellor Phillip Hammond said this comes as the ‘era of austerity is coming to an end.’

Indeed it was during the financial crisis of 2007-2008 that this world-renowned psychiatric hospital in Camberwell closed its emergency clinic and patients were directed to King’s College Hospital’s accident and emergency department nearby.

Also in this edition, we highlight the fact that staff at King’s, across the road from the Maudsley, are facing well above average incidents of bullying, harassment or abuse from patients, relatives or the public.

It must be noted that King’s own acute services are not included in the Care Quality Commission’s report on the Maudsley. And in many areas of the Maudsley, care is rated good or outstanding, including ‘care and compassion shown by staff’.

The size of the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust goes far beyond its base in Camberwell. Many readers might not be aware that it provides mental health services to 1.3 million people across Southwark, Lambeth, Lewisham and Croydon. More than 1,200 nurses are employed among its 5,000-strong staff. And the high turnover and continuing unfilled vacancies are a huge part of the problem and the general crisis across the country.

It is completely right that everyone including the News examines more closely, asks how and why incidents compromising the safety of patients in acute care – the most vulnerable of all – are happening. But we cannot forget that all too often the NHS has to make the best of what it is given. And since the ‘age of austerity’, what has been given, is not enough.

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