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Forget 'media hype' and focus on improving mental health care

PUBLISHED: 08:00 17 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:06 17 January 2019

Hellesdon Hospital. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Hellesdon Hospital. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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"Media hype" has been blamed for causing anxiety in those under the care of the mental health trust. Health and political correspondent Geraldine Scott says that's a denial of the issues at hand.

“Get factual answers rather than the media hype”.

That was the invitation extended to patients under the care of the region’s mental health trust earlier this month.

It followed the news in November that Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) had been slammed by inspectors for the third time, making them the worst mental health trust in the country.

And, while I know it’s in vogue for those accused of doing things wrong to scream fake news, I have an invitation of my own - I invite those at the top of our health services to act to improve things for patients, rather than taking a leaf out of the book of Donald Trump.

I’ve reported on the mental health failings in Norfolk and Suffolk for two years, with predecessors working on a campaign to improve services since 2013.

We work and live in our communities. Our families use these services. Our colleagues do. I personally have.

No one wants to see them fail.

Which is why it is galling to see a letter such as this one sent to patients.

In it the trust rightly apologised to patients.

But it then continued to say “the results and media coverage will have created for many anxieties, upset, and frustrations about your care”.

I would argue it’s the lack of care which is causing these anxieties, this upset, and this frustration.

Framing what has happened as “media hype” does not change the fact that it is true.

It is a jab which could have been directed at our reporters, those at the BBC, ITV or national newspapers which covered the report.

The media, nationally and locally, isn’t perfect. We make mistakes, and when do, we hold our hands up to them. But I always welcome any discussion over what in our coverage someone might feel has not been factual.

You may disagree with the opinions expressed by patients, by MPs, by trust bosses, or by campaign groups, but that does not mean that is not their truly held opinion and they have a right to express it.

What is also factual is that the trust has failed three times. It is factual that 36 patients had been waiting for more than five years for treatment. It is factual that 636 children and young people were waiting for treatment as of September, and in July more than 220 had been waiting more than 18 weeks for help.

It is factual people have died because they have not been looked after to the standard expected.

It is, of course, also factual that frontline staff work extremely hard under difficult circumstances and are doing their best. This was also reflected in our reporting.

What is unhelpful is for the trust to now be down playing the seriousness of this situation as “media hype”.

We all want to see high quality services for the people of Norfolk and Suffolk. Blaming the media for reporting on failings smacks of denial and is not the way to make progress.

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