An Isle of Wight resident attempted suicide after a lack of support from the Island’s drug and alcohol service, a health watchdog has said.
Crippled by increased demand and staff shortages, the Island Recovery Integrated Service (IRIS) stopped taking alcohol referrals in March.
GPs not told of change
However, Island GPs were not told until June — for three months they had been referring patients to a service that did not exist.
The Isle of Wight NHS Trust, which currently runs IRIS, has since announced plans to outsource the service to a specialist provider, Inclusion.
IRIS stopped taking new referrals for alcohol treatment because it could not cope with the number it was receiving. Inclusion has now opened the service up to new referrals.
Healthwatch: Loss of service had a huge impact
Speaking at an Isle of Wight Council scrutiny meeting for adult health and social care, Isle of Wight Healthwatch manager Joanna Smith said:
“We can’t underestimate the effect this loss of service has had on people on the Island.
“We know of one person who has contacted us that has attempted suicide because there hasn’t been a service in place. It has had a huge impact on people.”
Voluntary sector not informed
Ms Smith said pregnant women struggling with alcohol misuse had not had a home visit since March.
The voluntary sector was only told of the problems at IRIS months after it stopped taking new referrals. Some voluntary sector agencies will not support people who are drinking or intoxicated.
Ms Smith said:
“If they had known there was not this service they could have renewed their policy for accepting people.”
IRIS staff slam management
IRIS staff have previously slammed the trust’s failure to support the award-winning service, rated ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission, and accused bosses of ignoring their concerns.
One third of the staff have taken long term sick leave, due to stress anxiety, which, coupled with vacancies, had left the service struggling to cope.
“Limping along on the heroic efforts of our staff”
Barbara Stuttle, director of nursing, midwifery, allied health professionals and community services, said:
“On behalf of the trust I would like to apologise. I would like to stress how sorry I am that we got ourselves into this position.
“We have managed to limp along on the heroic efforts of our staff. But we have not given the service that we should have done.
“If this goes how it should, it will be a good example of how you can do things if you work collectively.
“We feel more settled having met with Inclusion and seeing what they can do.”
Love: “It’s a huge failure”
Scrutiny member, Cllr Karl Love, quizzed health bosses over the decision to merge the drug and alcohol service in to one.
“It’s a huge failure. But the failure starts when you merge two services. When you end up with a single provider and that provider goes wrong and you have absolutely nothing. And then the NHS fail to respond.”
CEO: “Profoundly sorry”
Responding, trust chief executive Maggie Oldham said:
“I am profoundly sorry that the service has found itself in this situation.
“It was not a service that was on our radar when I arrived at the trust.”
The trust anticipates a new provider will be in place in December, with a handover period taking place before then.
This article is from the BBC’s LDRS (Local Democracy Reporter Service) scheme, which OnTheWight is taking part in. Some additions by OnTheWight. Ed