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Outgoing High Sheriff's praise for dedicated mental health staff

The outgoing High Sheriff of Norfolk has paid tribute to the "exceptional" work taking place across Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) after passionately championing mental health issues during her year in office.

Lady Philippa Dannatt, who stepped down at the end of March, spent the past 12 months working closely with the Trust to help break down the stigma of mental illness. During her tenure, she travelled to sites across Norfolk, meeting staff working at all levels, as well as service users and their families and carers.

She hosted a special evening at Hammerton Court – the Trust's state-of-the-art dementia care unit – in Norwich in March to reflect on the past year and look at the changing approaches to mental health down the decades.

She spoke in glowing terms about the care and dedication she had witnessed from staff working for the Trust, and highlighted several areas for celebration.

"I am passionate about ensuring that everyone who needs help can access mental health support which is outstanding rather than merely adequate, and have been bowled over by the things I discovered during my year working with the Trust," said Lady Dannatt.

"There really is so much to celebrate, including some exceptional units, such as Hammerton Court, Northgate Hospital in Great Yarmouth, Fermoy Centre in King's Lynn and the remarkable Norvic Clinic at Thorpe St Andrews. Within these institutions, we have centres of excellence which should be highly regarded, and respected by us all across both counties.

"The very best thing I have found across our county is quite simply this – the remarkable vision, professionalism, care, compassion and dedication of all of the staff working in the mental health arena. We owe this raft of professionals a huge debt of gratitude for their so often unseen, unheard, and certainly unheralded area of work. They are doing an extraordinary job – I cannot emphasise this enough.

"The men and women I have come across working in our mental health hospitals, units, communities and prisons have, almost without exception, been quite extraordinary in their passion for their work. They have hopes for their patients and pride in those same patients' achievements and, most of all, they really are making a difference to scores of people's lives each and every day."

Lady Dannatt, who lives in Keswick near Norwich, is married to General The Lord Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff. She trained as a counsellor 15 years ago and met lots of people battling mental health problems while working with the charity Relate.

She was the third member of her family to fulfil the historic role of High Sheriff, following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather. The role dates back to Saxon times when the sheriffs who collect money on behalf of the monarch.

A highly respected position, the unpaid role sees High Sheriffs invited to royal visits and able to act as returning officers in parliamentary elections.

Trust Chair, Gary Page, said: "We have been very grateful to Lady Dannatt, who has passionately championed mental health issues during her year as High Sheriff of Norfolk.

"We fully intend to build on that work in the future so that we can keep the needs of our service users and their families and carers firmly in the public's consciousness to help us drive through further improvements in the care we are able to offer."