Chief Executive's blog: See, Think, Act

Many of you will have read about a leaked NHS England report, given to the BBC, into mental health patients at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. The report was highly critical of how the investigations were conducted into over 1,000 deaths during a four year period and the media coverage can be accessed here.


I thought that, as chief executive, the implications of this report on Mersey Care should be explained. It is very difficult to compare our services without seeing the official report, but as a trust we pride ourselves on working closely with service users, relatives and carers to ensure they receive the highest standards of care.


We are also committed to being transparent and our established values state that services users, carers and staff should all be treated with dignity, respect and be valued as citizens.


Robust whistleblowing and complaints procedures are in place and we encourage staff and patients to use them, while we received a good rating during the recent inspections of our services by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).


That said, I think we can expect all NHS Trusts to be under greater scrutiny for the way they investigate deaths in their care, and particularly those who care for patients with learning disabilities.


The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has indicated the Government will introduce Ofsted-style ratings for the quality of care offered to people with learning disabilities from next June, an independent study of mortality rates for people with learning disabilities has been commissioned and all avoidable deaths by each NHS Trust will also be published next year.


As part of those changes, the Government wants to “instil a no-blame reporting culture across the NHS where people are rewarded, not penalised, for speaking openly and transparently about mistakes.”


This Government focus is not to be feared and we have shown ourselves to be an organisation who, time and again, works hard to put things right when we have made mistakes. Through the staff newsletter, Tell Joe and our robust safeguarding programme, which can be accessed here, we already have a no-blame reporting culture and we would encourage you all to use these forums to register your complaints and ensure we are an organisation that keeps improving.


Foundation Trust Status


Most of you will know that we’re moving towards becoming an NHS foundation trust, and have previously consulted with a wide range of stakeholders – service users, their families, organisations, members of the public and other partners – about this.


Just as the CQC inspection was not regarded as an end point, neither should this. NHS foundation trusts have greater independence and more freedom to develop their own ways of working. Although still part of the NHS, they are not directed by Government and instead are accountable to their local communities through their members and a council of governors.


The council of governors is made up of 24 elected members comprising public, service users, carers and six appointed governors (nominated by groups such as local authorities, health commissioners, universities and voluntary groups). There are also seven vacancies for staff comprising a medic, two nurses, two other clinical staff and two non-clinical staff.


The role of the council of governors is to hold the non-executive directors individually and collectively to account for the performance of the board of directors. As an employee of Mersey Care you are also a Trust member, unless you have opted out; this means you can nominate yourself to be part of the council of governors.


Nominations can be made from the 23 December until 5pm on Monday 25 January 2016. The elections will run from 15 February to 10 March. Details of how to nominate yourself can be found here, or you can email


Opposition Day Debate


Local MP and Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Luciana Berger, who many of you would have heard talking at our recent Positive Achievement Awards, successfully called for an Opposition Day Debate on mental health this week, which is a subject chosen by the opposition to be debated in parliament.


It is great that Luciana keeps pushing mental health onto the agenda of the main legislative house to ensure important issues are discussed. All the problems regarding mental health – funding, the stigma surrounding it – are not going to be solved overnight, but by keeping it in the public domain we have a much better chance of those problems being addressed.


No Force First


Our award-winning No Force First restraint reduction programme is approaching an exciting point as we prepare to complete the roll out of the process to all in-patient areas by the end of March 2016. The key driver for culture change in this area has been the vivid accounts of people who have experienced physical and medication led restraint. This critical narrative features prominently in our latest comprehensive engagement/training video, which you can see here.


Staff Survey


Finally, I’d like to thank each and every one of you that completed a staff survey. We not only exceeded last year’s response rate of 56% but our final figure of 59% was 17% higher than the national average for a  mental health trust and only 1% lower than the highest in our sector.


Organisation Type




Acute Trust




Ambulance Trust




Mental Health Trust




Community Health








It was important that as many of you as possible took part in the survey so we know what we need to fix and how to improve. The results of the information you have given us will be available in January and will be shared widely through our trust-wide roadshows held next spring. For those that missed it, the final divisional response rates are:


  • Corporate 66%
  • Informatics Merseyside 63%
  • Secure division 59%
  • Local Division 54%