Clive Lewis, the Labour MP for Norwich South, has called for the publication of the previously withheld Alexander Report into the operations of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Mental Health Trust. The issue was raised in the House of Commons during the Member of Parliament’s first appearance at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s questions. The MP today stated on his Facebook page that the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation (NSF) Trust have since released a redacted version of the report.
Lewis described the report in his statement to Parliament as raising “serious questions about patient safety and care, due to cuts to services”. He asked if the Prime Minister agreed with him that the “duty of candour should apply equally to NHS management as it does to NHS frontline staff”, and asked David Cameron to join him in calling for its publication. The Prime Minister’s response argued that “there are two things we need here. To uncover bad practice and turn it around and then back that up with the resources the NHS needs, including those recommended by the Steven’s plan”. He also claimed that “as things stand it is only this party backing that extra £8 billion in the NHS and not the party opposite”.
The Norwich South MP later commented that “when I asked him that question it was clear he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about and the response he gave me was a holding position, rather than an answer to my question”. He stated that the “duty of candour” is a phrase that has been used by the Conservative Party in the past, for example if the NHS staff have done something wrong, they have a responsibility to be upfront with patients. Lewis claims that if this policy is good enough for front-line staff it should be good enough for administration if institutional errors have been made.
The Alexander Report covers the area of mid-Norfolk, including Norwich South, Lewis’s constituency. He stated that the Prime Minister’s response was “deeply unsatisfactory”, and that he should have responded in full to his question. He stated that “the NSF Trust should have been more candid but the ultimate blame lies with this government and the previous one”.
The MP added that the recent £36 million of cuts to the NSF Trust, which was placed in special measures in February, means it will be made far more difficult for them to effectively operate. He refuted David Cameron’s claim that the Tories are the only party backing the NHS funding request of £8 billion by stating that the small print of the Stevens Report makes clear that that amount is actually the minimum figure, with the amount of money needed to really improve services being much higher.
However, the £8 billion in funding the government are promising poses a further issue for the Labour MP. He stated that the funding is likely to come from the selling off public assets such as Royal Mail and Ordnance Survey or from welfare cuts of £12 billion. However this means that, especially in terms of mental health care and provisions, pushing more and more people into poverty and destitution via cuts creates a false economy of savings for the NHS as expenditure will still outweigh extra funding.