Emma Corlett, Unison steward at the Norfolk & Suffolk Mental Health Trust

“In my experience it is hard to do your job. There aren’t enough staff”

“The lack of [mental health] beds means that there is a delay in finding someone a bed even if  they have to be detained under the mental health act. And from Norfolk we’ve had patients sent all over the country as far as Harrogate, Brighton, Weston-super-Mare, which means it’s really difficult [for the patient] as they are separated from their support network. As a worker it’s really difficult to do any discharge planning if you have patients in your caseload all over the country.”

“We have never had waiting lists for mental health assessments, it’s the mental health equivalent of calling 999, [but now] we’ve had people told that there is going to be a wait of 48 hours for a mental health assessment. Or if one has taken place then they have had to wait for ages for a bed or if you’re lucky enough to find a bed then wait hours and hours for an ambulance to come to convey the person to hospital, meanwhile because you’re the community care coordinator you know that you’re responsible for that person’s care so people just feel absolutely terrified that they are going to end up at a coroner’s court or that something will happen and they will be individually scapegoated and that the systemic failings won’t be recognised. And so they practice in a real culture of fear.”

“I’m really worried and my colleagues definitely are. They say quite a lot that they feel that decisions are being made based on resources rather than clinical judgement. So their clinical judgement might be that somebody needs crisis intervention in hospital, but there isn’t a bed, so it’ll be “so can they just be managed in the community?” – well no if I’m worried enough to ask for a mental health act assessment then my judgement is that they need to be in hospital.”

Tell us your experience

Help explain how pressure on resources affects your job.
  • What is it like working under pressure in the NHS? What kind of compromises do you have to make? Do patients suffer as a result of lack of resources? How does it feel to work in the NHS at the moment? Are you optimistic about the future?