A welcome to this, my first blog of a new era for Mersey Care and to summer as well, as we enjoy a decent spell of weather. We’re a week into being a newly expanded Trust and we’ve seen a smooth and supportive process as we bring together services, and just over 3000 members of staff, from former North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Trust.
In addition to welcoming colleagues I want to thank those who’ve worked tirelessly to make the acquisition happen: from the support of Governors and Board colleagues, to members of the transaction groups, IT and our communications team whose work has included important new look online services.
I want to wish the former trust’s Board members the very best. It was a difficult decision to seek acquisition and there’s a lesson for the wider NHS in terms of good Board level risk management. I’m also delighted to welcome John Heritage into the Mersey Care executive and Board. John will initially focus on the management of our now ‘quite complicated’ partnership and relationship space.
Together, we’ve all made this happen during the most extraordinary of times. Now we can look ahead as a Trust, not only with a strong reputation, but one that will grow that reputation for being at the forefront of tackling health inequalities, as well as beginning to understand how physical and mental health community services delivered at scale, will allow for ever improving safety, quality and outcomes.
I spent a brilliant and very sunny day at Hollins Park on day one. There was a positive atmosphere and it was terrific to talk with staff and call in on services: there’s a strong sense of enthusiasm and I know relief that the acquisition was completed to plan. I’ll be meeting even more people soon and members of the exec team have been out and about and will continue in the days and weeks ahead. As leaders this is very much our business as usual, as all Mersey Care staff know. I thoroughly enjoy these visits but more importantly, the learning we get from them helps us to keep grounded even as we take these big steps ahead.
A major benefit for this coming together is that it presents an opportunity to make sure high quality, integrated physical and mental health services are delivered across our area, as we deliver our vision to meet the growing demand for out of hospital services, prevention and care closer to home. We all know that it is no longer a sustainable model of health care to keep seeing physical, long term conditions as unrelated to people’s mental health and wellbeing. Our new footprint and range of services will allow us to bring this massive opportunity to co-ordinate care better, to come to life.
For patients and service users, all this hard work should almost go unnoticed. Clinicians, therapists and others will remain unchanged and things will continue as before. One thing patients’ should see immediately is our new website which was timed to go live with the acquisition. It has an attractive design, with tools for improved accessibility and handy features like clickable maps to find services in local areas.
I hope that patients will welcome these early changes and see the advantages of our new and widened organisation. We’ll keep listening to patient views in the months ahead – it’s what we do and what we will always do. So please, let me know what you think of the new site?
Similarly, we have a new intranet for staff. In fact, it’s now an extranet, which means you can access it on any device, work or personal. YourSpace is designed to be a portal for all members of staff - from all our services - to find out information that will help them perform their roles. It’s started very well – teams were contacted in advance, the new look has been widely praised and we’re listening to you.
If things look a bit different, the search function is a useful way to locate what you want. Like anything new, it’s going to take time for you to get to know it and get the best out of it. Please look around and again, feedback on how you find it. The excellent work done to deliver this is one of the positives of our enhanced position.
One area that I hope new colleagues come to see in Mersey Care is our approach to restorative justice. There’s training available online and it’s on the agenda for day one of induction for new starters. You may have seen the subject in the welcome booklets too. We ask “what happened” not “whose fault is this” when something unexpected occurs. Mersey Care learned in the hardest way that lives are damaged and the psychological safety of working in challenging situations can be destroyed by taking what we now know is a retributive approach. And, we’re not there yet.
But by treating people with respect, civility and learning from the unexpected, we’re now in a better place as a Trust. Our work on this culture change is heard across the NHS, nationally and far beyond. You have my permission to gently challenge all inappropriate behaviours and use the tools we’re providing to assist difficult conversations.
Another area of renown for Mersey Care is the recovery college work we do. I’m well aware some newer colleagues are looking on the Life Rooms with envy but be assured, we are keen to expand! Last week, the team won the Cheshire and Merseyside Social Value Award for their commitment and innovation in helping service users and their local community. The Life Rooms’ model seeks to improve population health through proactive and collaborative ways of working across the community. My congratulations to the team and their work, especially during volunteers’ week.
I’d like to pay tribute to our roving vaccination team who stand down this month. The roving vaccination team model was about supporting vulnerable patient groups across Liverpool and South Sefton and providing person centred care into care homes, supported living accommodation and people’s own homes. One of the first of its kind nationally! Numbering around 40 registered nurses, they worked with clinical commissioning groups; primary care networks and local authority leads to protect 1000 people in their own homes and 3000 in other sites.
There’s been lots of positive feedback, both from the staff and the service users. Comments included: “Dave has PTSD and agoraphobia in addition to other mental and physical health conditions which mean he is extremely clinically vulnerable. Various concerns meant he had decided to refuse the vaccine. His care co-ordinator worked with the roving team to offer a vaccination at home.” This is great work and a real example of service. Team members all volunteered for this, many had full time jobs and did their work out of hours. As we come to the end of volunteers’ week, I formally thank the roving team – and all those who go above and beyond to help.
Finally, if you want to learn more about our services – as a new colleague or someone who is now supported by Mersey Care – or if you just love reading great stories about inspirational people, I recommend Mersey Care’s membership magazine.
The new edition is out this week and is full of stunning images and inspiring examples of care. We talk to writer Russell T Davies and actor Michael Starke, share professional advice on life after lockdown and introduce the Zero Heroes of the ZSA. Have a read!
May I wish all staff all the best in our newly widened Trust: stay safe, have that vaccine and keep on delivering great care and supporting your colleagues.
Prof Joe Rafferty CBE