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In Mind: Chief Executive Joe Rafferty provides his throughts on what he wants from 2018

I’d like to mark my first blog of 2018 by wishing every colleague across Mersey Care a Happy New Year. I hope many of you were able to get some time off during the festive period to spend time with friends and family, while I’d also like to thank those of you that had to work because of the 24/7 nature of our care.

 Traditionally, a new year is a time for optimism, for setting resolutions and looking ahead to the future. It’s a time for new goals and objectives and, here at Mersey Care, we hope it will be another eventful year where we can continue to try and set new standards for healthcare. I’m sure many of you have made quiet resolutions to yourselves for 2018 and I thought I’d use this week’s blog to reflect on the challenges ahead of us as an organisation and my hopes for the year ahead.

There are many items on our wish list, but having thought about what we represent as an organisation and where we hope to be heading, our core objective has to be how we care for and support people, whether they are service users, carers, colleagues or members of the Trust. This is all illustrated nicely by the below diagram:

Each letter represents an important strand of what we do and what we hope to achieve, beginning with ‘Putting people first.’ This is a really good way of illustrating what we’re trying to achieve with one of our main objectives for 2018, the acquisition of Liverpool Community Health (LCH) Liverpool Core Services. Subject to the approvals process, staff and services will transfer to Mersey Care on 1 April and completely transform us as an organisation.

When I arrived as Chief Executive in 2012, it was a very different Mersey Care to the one we see today, concentrating mainly on mental health. Since then we have successfully added Talk Liverpool, Ambition Sefton, acquired Calderstones Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and turned it into our new specialist learning disability division and become the new provider for the South Sefton segment of LCH in conjunction with Northwest Boroughs Healthcare.

We have already been asked to enter into an interim management agreement to provide management and other support to LCH. Once the acquisition is completed, Mersey Care’s DNA will change dramatically from primarily a mental health trust into one that genuinely embraces the integration of community mental and physical health. This is not an ambition that will be achieved overnight, but it is an important step towards providing healthcare that can address all, rather than some, of our patients’ needs.

Recent news headlines have illustrated the challenges ahead for healthcare in this country, but by bringing community services to the people, integrating hearts and minds, we are implementing a strategy that the NHS identified some years ago but has struggled to successfully deliver.

It’s important to stress that the recent history of LCH is now in the past and together we will work together to provide the best possible community services for the people of Liverpool. I’m sure that by moulding the expertise of existing LCH colleagues with Mersey Care, we can build an even stronger trust and even better standards of care.

One of my main objectives ever since I became Chief Executive was to improve the standards of the buildings we operate from so our service users could expect the same standard of facilities as those being treated for a physical health condition. If we can improve the environment, both for service users, patients and colleagues, it improves the opportunity for innovation and improved recovery times. Put simply it’s aiming for ‘Excellence in Everything We Do.”

That began with the opening of Clock View Hospital in 2015 and has continued with the openings of two Life Rooms in the years since. We have several big developments in the pipeline, including a medium secure unit on our Maghull site, the opening of our new hospital in Southport (an artist’s impression is below) and a third Life Rooms being developed in Bootle with Hugh Baird College, which is scheduled to open in September.

This project gives us the opportunity to work more closely with young people to help with their health and wellbeing, which is a something many of our service users have told us they would like to see improved. I am proud of the fact that we are a listening organisation and this is another example of us acting upon demand.

I believe one of our biggest strengths as an organisation is that we continually evaluate what we are doing and how we do things. By getting the basics right, it enables us to develop and innovate but that is only possible by having clear lines of communication open to each and every one of you.

We do this through talking to every single one of you through the staff survey and questions I am asked through the ‘Tell Joe’ initiative. It is only by getting your regular feedback that we can learn about the things that matter to you and the organisation and act upon them.

Mersey Care is justifiably proud of being selected as a Global Digital Exemplar, which gives us the funding and opportunity to develop new ways of working. We have also made good progress on our zero suicide policy and our progress within Mersey Care both on zero suicide and our restrictive practice ambitions make our organisation a very safe place for people to receive care. This means our Centre for Perfect Care and our work as a Global Digital Exemplar, including Rio implementation, must progress at pace to become relevant to front line staff and patients.

We were also one of the founder members of the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA), a collection of like minded organisations aiming to develop a more joined-up approach to help end suicide in the UK. The ZSA launch event was in November and attracted some highly influential figures from the private and public sector and we are planning a further event early in 2018 to try and build on the early momentum.

The innovation we have developed for those initiatives, and others like ‘No Force First’, should not be under-rated. At such a challenging time for this and many other NHS organisations, I’m continually proud of the work we do at Mersey Care and our commitment to being a learning organisation.

In the last year we have introduced a ‘Just and Learning Culture’ to Mersey Care, after seeking guidance from world renowned expert Professor Sidney Dekker, who visited the trust to pass on his expertise. One of the many messages the Professor shared with us was that a just culture is “about trust, learning and accountability... with restoration of compassion at every level."

This is something we’re trying to introduce into Mersey Care’s wider practice. Is anything ever such an emergency that you can’t stop and think about how am I going to react to this? There’s an awful lot of wisdom in that because there’s more time than we think. Less haste and more speed is something that sometimes we really need to think about but which is something that is no mean feat to achieve when services are busy.

One of our biggest successes of the last year has been the Life Rooms model, which I hope will go from strength to strength in helping people to make connections in ways that allow them to take more control over their lives. The Life Rooms have also become our flagship for co-production with service users, the public and staff alike. I really want to see our understanding of the complex work of co-production grow and develop in our trust.

The Life Rooms is also a very good example of meeting rather than managing demand, which is something we are all going to have to think more about in the coming year. I’m delighted with the positive, just relationship being built with staff and I know we all work in a pressurised environment, characterised by ever growing demand. This trust, along with the rest of the NHS, will need to adapt and innovate in ways that are probably unprecedented in most of our working lives.

It’s a challenge for us all in 2018 as we welcome new colleagues and prepare to share our expertise. It’s a year that I am sure will bring plenty of opportunities and frustrations, but one where I am sure Mersey Care can thrive and keep setting high standards of healthcare.