One of the Essex’s largest health trusts has been stripped of a contract after NHS commissioners described its mental health services as “unacceptable”.
Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) provides care to 2.5 million in Essex and surrounding counties.
The trust hit the headlines last week amid claims that staff were having sex with patients in Essex and supplying them Class A drugs.
Now NHS chiefs in Basildon have terminated the trust’s psychological therapy service for people with mild and moderate mental problems.
GPs, nurses and officers of the Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) board agreed to decommission EPUT and to look at potential new suppliers.
The board was told on Thursday that failures in treating people with depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress included excessively long waiting times, failures in referrals to crisis provision and poor contact between the service and GPs and patients.
“GPs are becoming cynical that [the service] is achieving anything for their patients,” said the report to the board.
CCG officers had initially suggested sitting down with EPUT NHS executives to consider a new model for the improving access to psychological therapies programme, known as IAPT, rather than finding a new service provider.
But concerned board members threw the plan out.
Dr Babafemi Salako, a GP board member, said: “We cannot continue with EPUT. Take the contract away and get something proper in place for once.”
The board deputy chair Tony Cox also rejected the proposal to continue with EPUT and referred to the report on his desk, which highlighted “excessive” patient waiting times.
“We don’t want delays for patients,” he said.
Katherine Kirk MBE, board lay member and governance committee chair, added: “This has gone of years and years. We’ve had this service in place throughout south Essex. It’s never really delivered. It’s been completely unacceptable for a long time.
“We talk about it and get reports, but we have something here that is unacceptable.”
She was backed by Dr Julia Hale, consultant for secondary care, who said: “My concerns echo Katherine’s. I’m not happy about what I read in this report that we should continue with current provider. We have a provider that does not deliver the goods.”
Members agreed to decommission the current IAPT service provider with a notice period of a year, and start a procurement in May 2018, for a new service model to start in April 2019.
EPUT denied its psychology services were failing in Basildon and said it had seen a “significant reduction” in waiting times.
“Our average wait from referral to first appointment is four days,” said a spokesman.
The trust also denied it was non compliant with the IAPT “constitutional standards”, as stated by Basildon CCG in its report.
“We can confirm that we are consistently meeting these,” the trust said.
The trust said there would be no redundancies if the contract is not retained after procurement and applications would be made for staff to transfer to the new provider.
The spokesman added: “We are working very closely with our clinical commissioning group colleagues to ensure the right level of funding is available for mental health services across Essex.”
Although Southend patients currently use EPUT psychological therapy service, commissioners said they had not yet made a decision on whether to continue with the same service provider.