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Junior doctors from mental health trust to join coronavirus fight

PUBLISHED: 07:30 25 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:20 25 March 2020

Junior doctors from Norfolk and Suffolk's mental health trust are moving into acute hospitals to help with the coronavirus outbreak Pictures: ANGELA SHARPE PHOTOGRAPHY/DENISE BRADLEY/CHRIS BISHOP

Junior doctors from Norfolk and Suffolk's mental health trust are moving into acute hospitals to help with the coronavirus outbreak Pictures: ANGELA SHARPE PHOTOGRAPHY/DENISE BRADLEY/CHRIS BISHOP

ANGELA SHARPE PHOTOGRAPHY/DENISE BRADLEY/CHRIS BISHOP

Trainee doctors at Suffolk and Norfolk’s mental health trust are set to move into the region’s major hospitals to help fight coronavirus, it has emerged.

Eleven members of staff in their foundation year at the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) will be transferred into acute hospitals to assist NHS colleagues in coping with a surge in demand.

Staffing arrangements are in place to make sure the NSFT continues to provide care to vulnerable people during the outbreak, medical director Dr Dan Dalton said, with the group of junior doctors set to move in April.

Meanwhile, 12 doctors from the Essex Partnership University Trust (EPUT) are also set to be transferred into acute hospitals.

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Dr Dalton said: “We are doing all we can to provide safe and effective healthcare for the vulnerable people we support during this really difficult time.

“This includes helping acute trusts to cope with the expected increase in demand on their services.

“Eleven foundation year trainees will move to support the acute trusts in April.”

Dr Dalton said these first year doctors have not decided to specialise in mental health – and it is likely they would move into acute hospitals eventually.

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He added: “There are staffing arrangements in place to make sure that we continue to offer care.

“All of our other junior doctors, who have chosen to specialise in mental health, or who are working as part of our frontline support, will stay with us, or be replaced as they rotate into new roles.

“We will also see 38 nursing students join the trust from April.”

Milind Karale, EPUT’s executive medical director, said: “EPUT is continuing to doing everything it can to provide healthcare to those who need it most during this challenging time.

“This includes supporting acute trusts to cope with the expected increase in demand on their services.

“Junior doctors rotate around a number of healthcare settings during their training.

“Twelve foundation year one doctors currently at EPUT will move on to support acute trusts in April and a further twelve due to rotate to EPUT in April will instead remain at acute trusts.”

Virus already ‘placing extra demands’ on mental health services

Campaigners fighting for better mental health services in the region said they can see how such a move can be justified in the circumstances – but warned the loss of core trainees could become an issue.

“In this emergency situation, we can see how the redeployment of some of the most junior trainees in their foundation years of training could be justified,” said a spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Suffolk and Norfolk.

“However, we’re much more concerned about the loss of core trainees, particularly as COVID-19 begins to place extra demands on mental health services.

“We understand, for instance, that mental health trusts are themselves being asked to establish isolation wards for psychiatric patients with suspected COVID-19.

He added: “People with mental ill health cannot be expected to receive a second class of help with the virus.”

MORE: Your coronavirus questions answered as Suffolk goes into lockdown

The move is part of a nationwide initiative by Health Education England to boost workforces at NHS organisations across England.

Professor Wendy Reid, of Health Education England, said: “Health Education England fully recognises the vital that role mental health services play in supporting patients and no psychiatry trainees have been asked to move.

“We can confirm some foundation trainees are being asked to move to acute trusts at the request of the local healthcare system.

“This is to meet local patient need and is being done after agreement with the postgraduate dean.

“We are monitoring trainee movement and making sure that all doctors in training get adequate induction and supervision.

She added: “These are very challenging times for the NHS and Health Education England is doing all it can to support the fight against COVID-19.”

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