theBlog: 14 June 2021

I want to start this week’s blog with a big thank you to all our staff. For some of you the last fortnight has seen some very significant organisational changes. For others, you will be handling the current surge in activity while observing infection and prevention controls in this very warm weather spell, which puts everyone under considerable pressure.

I wanted to let you know it’s not gone un-noticed at executive level and we’re keeping a very close oversight of our operations to make sure we’re doing everything possible to support working conditions and the impact of the pressures.

A meaningful appreciation of what we do, shown through kindness and respect, helps us get through what can often be difficult and, let’s say it, frustrating days. Caring is hard work and though it’s fulfilling, it can take it out of the best of us. So, I want staff to know how the Board appreciates and indeed marvels at the work being done. I know colleagues from the former North West Boroughs Healthcare had similar weekly messages and I’m always pleased to hear of specific examples.

Saying thank you isn’t just nice, or an add on to our respect and civility agenda, it’s part of staff development. Mersey Care staff prior to the acquisition will be familiar with the formal thank you system that feeds into the performance record (PACE). We intend to extend this system to colleagues from NWBH in the near future.

We’re also due to soon find out about winners and nominees for the last Positive Achievement Awards of the old Mersey Care and I know former NWBH colleagues had their celebration recently, too. It’s always a real pleasure to see names old and new from across services, and although not everyone can be employee or part of team of the month, we all deserve a thank you from someone – and why not from you?

To share that positivity, the £50 vouchers, already on their way to pre-acquisition Mersey Care staff, and given to Southport and Formby colleagues in their old trust, will soon be sent to former NWBH staff. Please bear with the team as they progress this and I hope you can treat yourselves as part of this gesture.

 

Congratulations

Speaking of positivity, I’d like to offer my huge congratulations to Bernie Rochford, Mersey Care’s Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, who has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list.

It’s a great recognition of all the work she does and highlights the importance of being able to speak freely and call out concerns in any forward-thinking organisation.

 

Carers week

I’d also like to take a bit of time in this blog to recognise those whose work is just as challenging, just as intimate, personal, hard and as time consuming as anyone in the health care environment. Many people get paid or receive an allowance to care for another – but many, many more do not.

Their work, which rarely keeps to a timetable, is remarkable and inspiring and they deserve our recognition. I’ve met many carers, sometimes in happy times, sometimes with the most distressing of stories to work through. Their commitment and, indeed love, are what I most remember.

As we leave Carers Week, carers should know that we keep them in mind for the rest of the year, too. Carers may need a little extra support to manage their own lives, as in fact do many of us. Offering friendship and kindness is a good start and I remain passionate about supporting mental health. Many of our newer colleagues may not know about the skills available from the Life Rooms, or for those with the tightest of spare time, there’s a range of apps, many free, which we’ve had curated for us on topics such as mindfulness, stress and physical health development.

We’ve also just teamed up with the mental health charity ‘Shout 85258’ to provide a free 24/7 text messaging service. The service provides support for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed or is struggling to cope. Texting the word HEAL to 85258 puts you in contact with a trained mental health professional.

 

Bigger is better?

Mersey Care’s development, bringing in colleagues from Whalley, Formby, Southport, former Liverpool Community Health and now former NWBH, is not about ‘bigger being better’. It’s about having a robust and flexible presence, but scale needs clear direction. We must never lose contact with the grass roots and we must never set off on a course without a solid system around us. We can innovate and challenge, but we must have a plan, which is detailed in our operational plan and clinical strategy for the year ahead.

As we bed in as an organisation of scale, we cannot improve the quality of health services without taking account of wider social issues, such as work, income, housing, and social connections. To do this, we must work effectively with our partners to have greater impact beyond our traditional organisational boundaries, taking a population health management approach to reduce inequalities in access and outcomes for the people we serve.

This fits with the priorities set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. Collaborative working with our system partners and the expansion of community and mental health services is in that plan and is on our agenda. We will do this – and do it well as a Trust with real presence - by transforming the way we care for people. We’ll give people more control over their health and prove care in a joined up way that’s rooted in our communities. We know we work in places facing significant challenges, but we can really help by doing so with strength and compassion.

 

Your voice

We want to hear from you about this and more. Our Mega Conversations are back to start the process off. We have 10 of these sessions – all online – starting next month. They’ll last for two and a half hours and, for those unfamiliar with this well-established process, the mega conversations give you chance to hear from and talk to executives about our strategic vision.

There’s also a session for staff who have lived experience of accessing Mersey Care services and for staff with protected characteristics. Everyone has a perspective that’s valuable here, so we want to hear from you. Even in busy times, please take this moment to hear what’s happening and discuss with executives what the future should look like. Previous mega conversations have made a material difference to Mersey Care including leading us to develop our Restorative Just and Learning Culture. Please be part of this next one.

 

Moving times

The last few weeks have been dominated with talk about ‘moving across’ with staff from Southport and Formby and former NWBH staff joining us. I’d also like to thank our community mental health services staff previously based at Mossley Hill Hospital and Norris Green Hub.

This week they completed an actual relocation to a new base at the former Thomas Leigh building in Knotty Ash. Contact numbers stay the same but this move, one of several improvements to our estate, provides an opportunity for some specialist inpatient and community mental health services to be co-located in better buildings with patient focussed environments.

 

Jabs again

Finally this week, I’d like to offer a further reminder for everyone to book in for that second jab. All over 50s can now have the follow up, and the age range is widening all the time. This is more important than ever because it looks like the restrictions are set to continue as infection rates are not going in the right direction.

That particularly applies in our footprint and where many staff live in parts of Greater Manchester, Preston, West Lancashire, Blackburn and the Ribble Valley. The advice is again to avoid meetings indoors, minimise travel and get both jabs. Choosing not to protect yourself means choosing to add risk to someone else’s life. We should all put health care first.

 

Prof Joe Rafferty CBE

Chief Executive