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Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust set up scholarship to honour New Buckenham pensioner, Peggy Copeman, who died on M11

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A scholarship fund has been created in memory of an 81-year-old New Buckenham woman, who died during a six-hour ambulance journey to find a hospital bed.

Peggy Copeman died on the hard shoulder of the M11 on December 16, 2019, having become unresponsive while being transported on a 200-mile journey to find a suitable psychiatric bed as none were available within the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT).

The NSFT has now set up The Peggy Copeman Scholarship, which will see applicants from the older people’s inpatient team at the Julian Hospital in Norwich receive £3,000 to access training, which the trust has promised will result in better care for patients.

Peggy Copeman's daughter Maxine Fulcher and son-in-law Nick Fulcher have stopped short of thanking the NSFT for the gesture. Photo by Mark Bullimore.
Peggy Copeman's daughter Maxine Fulcher and son-in-law Nick Fulcher have stopped short of thanking the NSFT for the gesture. Photo by Mark Bullimore.

This year’s scholarship will fund dementia care mapping training, which will help the inpatient team observe and assess the quality of care they provide, from the perspective of the person living with the disease.

The winners of the scholarship were chosen by Peggy’s son-in-law, Nick Fulcher, and Diane Hull, chief nurse at NSFT.

“We’re honoured that Peggy’s family have allowed us to set up a scholarship in her name, which will allow our staff to continually learn and improve the care we provide,” said Ms Hull.

Mr Fulcher welcomed the scholarship but stopped short of thanking the trust for the gesture.

“We are not thanking the NSFT for this, as this should never have happened in the first place,” he said.

“I appreciate they are setting this up in Peggy’s name for dementia patients, but she was let down by the elderly mental health team as it was far to late for her to receive the proper care and treatment.

“We really hope they learn by this and this never happens again.”

Mr Fulcher, of The Street in North Lopham, has spent the two years since his mother-in-law’s death campaigning for more mental health services in south Norfolk.

In September, he criticised the trust after it failed to meet its target to reduce the number of people being sent out of the area for mental health treatment to zero.

Mr Fulcher, whose brother took his own life, said: “They are not keeping to promises at all. Walking the walk and talking the talk are two different things: south Norfolk is an area where people need help.

“So many people, young and old, are dying, and what has Diss got to offer? If people need support, they have got to go all the way to Norwich or Bury St Edmunds.

“A ridiculous amount of money has been wasted on out-of-placement beds. I would propose they find more beds in Norfolk and Suffolk and stop this happening.”

Responding to the delay, NSFT chief executive Stuart Richardson said: “Sadly, the current demand for mental health support means we will not meet the ambition to reduce the number of people we send out of area for hospital care to zero in September. As a system, we will work towards March 2022.”

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