Earlier today, HRH The Princess Royal declared our superb Southport mental health facility, Hartley Hospital open. It was a real pleasure for the chairman and I to welcome her to our wonderful new site. The Princess Royal met staff, including chief operating officer Donna Robinson and modern matron Noirin Smith, visiting wards and offices and importantly service users too. The party was received by dignitaries from Sefton Council, including Mayor of Sefton Cllr Clare Carragher, who are valued partners for Mersey Care.


Hartley Hospital – named after the Southport food-making family and philanthropists – is a beautiful £21 million building on a historic location off Scarisbrick New Road. You may remember a video where we spoke to one of the builders who was born there when it was a maternity hospital! Her Royal Highness warmly admired the building – but more importantly, she saw the quality of care delivered by Mersey Care staff. Hartley combines local mental health inpatient care and related community services on one site in Southport for the first time – replacing two old buildings. The new hospital has two wards, one for adults undergoing a mental health crisis and another for older adults needing complex care. We showed the Princess Royal the bedrooms, garden courtyards, therapy and activity areas, where chaplaincy staff and others were leading activities.

The visit, which culminated in the unveiling and formal declaration of opening, was by necessity a little less flamboyant than the official openings we’ve had for our other new sites in recent years. Sanitising and all the COVID-19 protections were firmly in place, save for a single speech which was agreed as maskless. In fact, the pandemic means that brilliant though Hartley Hospital is, we have an even newer site at Rowan View which I hope can be formally opened in the near future too!

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We were unable to invite the many people who have contributed to bringing Hartley to completion over recent years. However today’s official opening was a tribute to everyone who’s been involved, a special day in a long journey which has involved service users, carers, staff and partner organisations in designing a world class mental health facility fit for the 21st century. As Mersey Care expands, events like this are treasured reminders of our reputation, and we never forget that we’re continuing to deliver in the most difficult of times.

I want to thank our health and construction partners and notably our staff, who enabled us to complete the final phase of the new build at the end of last year and managed to move all remaining inpatient and community mental health services in Southport despite the enormous challenges of the pandemic.

Official recognition for Mersey Care’s work has been especially high of late. It reflects well on us all, whether we’re in a new building or doing a great job somewhere else. It’s a team effort.

Our national partnership – the Zero Suicide Alliance – continues to be a major force for good. The ZSA raises awareness and demonstrates our commitment to changing attitudes to suicide. It offers real, practical tools to support people in need or in difficult places. This week saw the latest phase of campaigning – the invitation to become a Zero Hero.


And if you’re looking for a charity to support, especially for an event, whether it’s the Three Peaks challenge or a sponsored silence, why not choose the ZSA, now on Virgin Giving. If the ZSA training isn’t something you’ve seen before, or had time to go through, please do so and share the links as widely as you can too. If you’re a quizzer, pencil in Friday, 10 September – we’ll be holding a Zero Hero Celebrity Big Quiz online. It’ll be World Suicide Prevention Day: a great chance to be positive and have some fun.

By now, I hope that newer colleagues from the former North West Boroughs are feeling settled into Mersey Care. I’m always keen to hear from all parts of the organisation and have been spending time in services formerly run by NWB. It’s good to meet and hear from you. I know that staff, now mainly forming the Mid Mersey Division, are getting both the Trust wide communications and additional messages to support the transition. Dedicated events like the research and audit forum continue. As part of the Mega Conversations, the executive team is visiting sites to speak to staff. If you’d like one of the team to come to your workplace, please email: organisationaleffectiveness@merseycare.nhs.uk  If you’ve not had chance to attend one of the virtual sessions, you can share your thoughts by completing this short online survey.

Similarly, the feedback we get from the Culture of Care barometer is vital. It’s a widely regarded way of measuring what’s working well and what could be better in your team. It’s run four times a year and now used as part of NHS Pulse, a new engagement survey which is a mandatory requirement for all trusts. For teams who have recently transferred from former NWB, it’s critical that we hear your experiences through the transition. The survey will be open until 30 July at 5pm.

A way to really get involved is as a governor. Trust governors have statutory duties and keep us firmly grounded in our communities. Nominations for new positions and vacancies have just opened and there’s a session this evening (Monday) where you can join us online and learn more.

During the current hot spell, as the holiday season begins for many, I thank staff for your continued diligence, care and professionalism. Remember that we should all continue to act in the best interests of the most vulnerable people we support both inside and outside of our jobs: masks, distancing and sanitizing.

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Have a good week, stay safe and let’s hope for some Olympic success to keep us buoyed up!


Prof Joe Rafferty CBE

Chief Executive