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Chief nurse resigns after regulator returns mental health trust to ‘special measures’

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The most senior nurse at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and another board member have resigned, following a highly critical inspection report from the Care Quality Commission.

The trust announced late on Wednesday that Jane Sayer, director of nursing, quality and patient safety, and Leigh Howlett, director of strategy and resources had tendered their resignations.

“Although I am deeply saddened to be stepping down from my role, I believe it is the right thing”

Jane Sayer

Both have cited their decision to leave as a response to the findings of the recent CQC report and both will fulfil their six-month notice periods working within the wider NHS, said the trust.

On Friday, the CQC recommended that the mental health provider be placed back into its special measures regime for struggling trusts for a second time in three years.

It was first rated “inadequate” and put in special measures after an inspection in October 2014, but was judged to have made sufficient improvements to exit the regime after a follow-up visit last year.

However, during the CQC’s latest visit in July this year, inspectors found the trust had not maintained standards and significant improvements were required, and was again rated as “inadequate”.

The trust was told it must ensure action was taken to remove ligature anchor points, mitigate risks from poor lines of sight and follow national guidance on seclusion and restraint.

It was also told it must ensure sufficient numbers of staff were available “at all times to provide care to meet patients’ needs”, and that all relevant staff had completed statutory, mandatory and, where relevant, specialist training, said the CQC in its report.

“The trust board had not taken the action required to ensure that all its wards were safe environments for patient care, that clinical teams had a sufficient number of staff or that staff assessed and managed risk adequately,” said CQC chief inspector of hospitals Ted Baker.

Ms Sayer, joined the East Anglian trust as nursing director on 28 October 2013, after a stint as acting director of nursing and education at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

On making the announcement, Dr Sayer said: “It has been a privilege to work with the excellent staff at NSFT, and alongside the incredibly committed service users, carers and volunteers who all play their part in supporting and delivering caring services to thousands of local people every day.

“Although I am deeply saddened to be stepping down from my role, I believe it is the right thing to do following the recent CQC report,” she said. “Clearly the quality of services remains a real challenge and there is much work to be done to drive that forward.”

Mr Howlett said: “When I read the CQC report my first concern was for the disappointment of our staff, who I know have worked incredibly hard, and for the service users and carers whose confidence in our services may have been affected.

Jane Sayer

Jane Sayer

Jane Sayer

“I fully believe that the colleagues I leave behind will achieve all of the improvements that need to be made for the benefit of local service users,” he added.

The trust’s new chief executive, Julie Cave, said that Norfolk and Suffolk would “now take the time to rejuvenate” the membership of its board.

She said: “I would like to express our gratitude to Jane and Leigh for their hard work and for their unstinting dedication to mental health services.

“Both have led their teams with commitment, respect and dedication; and they have always been the complete embodiment of our trust’s values,” said Ms Cave.

She added: “There is no doubt that their integrity and professionalism will carry them on to a positive future.”

The position of the foundation trust’s directors has a contractual notice period of six months, which is standard for the NHS.

Both Ms Sayer and Mr Howlett will remain on the payroll as NHS employees during their six-month notice period, and will seek to fulfil work within other parts of the health service.

No lump sum payments have been made to either director, the trust stated. It noted that these were legal contractual entitlements and it was legally bound to honour the notice period, as with all staff.

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