Chief executive faces ‘no confidence’ vote over ability ‘to steer mental health service out of current storm’
Published: 11 January, 2013
by TOM FOOT
UNION chiefs have called for a vote of no confidence in the top boss of Islington’s mental health service.
The Unison branch at Camden and Islington Foundation Trust has taken the unusual step following its “serious concerns” about Wendy Wallace’s ability to “steer our organisation out of the current storm”.
The chief executive, who is paid £160,000 a year, has been criticised over her handling of a major reorganisation and pay scale review forced through last year against the advice of experts and hard-working NHS staff.
Swingeing cuts were made to community mental health and inpatient teams. This week, families have told the Tribune how severely ill patients feel “cut off” following the changes.
Unison said its fears that the changes would leave the service understaffed and struggling had been “realised”.
In a statement, the union said: “Our branch committee is so seriously concerned about the ability of this organisation to steer itself out of the current storm, we are taking the regrettable step of asking Unison members to take part in a vote of no confidence in the chief executive, Wendy Wallace.” Ballot papers are being sent out to NHS workers this month.
Government cuts forced planned savings of £12.7million in 2012-13; 70 per cent of the trust’s budget goes on staffing.
The trust said a reduced budget had made it impossible not to change the way services were provided.
Nurses and staff working with patients with severe mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder had pay scales downgraded.
Staff told the Tribune this week how 30 “essential jobs” had been cut to 16, with experienced band-7 staff being replaced by just-graduated band-3s.
The Tribune has been contacted by staff and families over the past few months over fears that the mentally ill are being lost in the system.
Craig Redway, 24, was ‘sectioned’ to a privately-run hospital in Southend from Highgate Mental Health Centre in 2011. The move followed the loss of more than 100 mental health inpatient beds and closure of three hospitals serving Camden and Islington.
His mother, Amelia Williams, said: “They have just dumped him there. He has no social worker. No one has been to see him for a year.”
Ms Williams, who is struggling to meet the cost of travelling to Southend twice a week, said she had written to Ms Wallace but had had no response.
The Tribune has also learned about an elderly mother whose mental health severely deteriorated after contact with the trust stopped last year.
A source said: “Now she has no one. What message does that send to her – that she is disposable, that they do not care and she is better dead.”
A trust spokeswoman said: “The trust is continuing its dialogue with recognised trade unions and professional bodies, including Unison. The trust board continues to fully back and support Wendy Wallace as its chief executive.
“We maintain regular contact with patients in out-of-area placements but cannot comment on individual cases.”
Credit: Islington Tribune