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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Union’s plea as bosses bid to rescue Cumbria mental health service

Top managers should not be employed “at the expense of” front-line staff as NHS bosses attempt to rescue its children’s mental health service.

The stark warning has come from the Royal College of Nursing, as plans are made to put together an “exceptional package” to entice the right candidate to sort out the failing service in Cumbria.

A damning review into provisions for youngsters and teenagers with issues including substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder revealed the team was in a state of “dysfunction” which could “spawn a crisis”.

The report, leaked exclusively to the News & Star, was commissioned by NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group and the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust themselves.

It used the word “inadequate” nine times and said understaffing and lack of resource were a “cause for major concern”.

The child and adolescent mental health service in Cumbria (CAMHS) has just 63 per cent of the staff required to bring it up to the national average.

The immediate priority in resolving the issues, the review states, is the appointment of a number of consultant psychiatrists, including a clinical director.

“A senior multi-disciplinary team led by a very experienced clinical director who has the unequivocal support of management throughout the CCG and CPFT presents as the most likely method for achieving a successful restructuring,” it said.

“The clinical director will need to be a long-term appointment. The nature of the change required is such that short-term actions will need to be backed by consistent and focussed attention into the longer term.”

However, the three independent medical reviewers admit the role will place “high personal demands” on the person who takes it on, and a high salary and package will be needed.

It continued: “A ‘head-hunting’ approach utilising personal contacts will be needed and an exceptional package of conditions of service will need to be offered. A substantive incentive will be needed to attract an able individual to move from their current post.”

Glenn Turp, northern regional director for the Royal College of Nursing, said that while the union does not “underestimate the value of very good management”, bosses need to ensure they have the right priorities.

“We would ask the trust to evidence that what they are proposing is needed and delivers results in relation to good quality patient care, but not to the detriment of being able to deliver sufficient people to provide the care needed.

“Investing in a senior clinical team without sufficient staff on the front line to deliver any of those services just wouldn’t be realistic.”

A spokeswoman for Cumbria Partnership said attracting the best specialist staff was a challenge across the NHS as a whole, but is even harder in Cumbria.

“The position of clinical director does attract additional salary but the best incentive to offer to a candidate is a good service to work within, opportunities for development and strong and capable teams to work within,” she added.

She said that before the review was completed, the partnership had already advertised for two new CAMHS consultants, with interviews scheduled to take place shortly.

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