Chief Executive's Blog: Telling it as it is

Mental health is fast becoming one of the great issues of our time with growing numbers of people in the UK seeking help. So starts the introduction to “In The Mind”, a fortnight of programming on the BBC. Yes you read that right; BBC TV and radio are dedicating serious amounts of airtime to explore this important subject in closer detail across a range of programming from news and drama to documentaries and features. 

About time too you might well think, but fair play to them a whole two weeks – that’s got to be a step in the right direction.

It started on Sunday (14 February) and promised to include stories of “life, hope, scientific discovery and much more to help raise public awareness and understanding of issues relating to mental health”. Sounds a lot like any given week here at Mersey Care; so we’ve ensured that the work we do week in, week out gets its fair share of the spotlight.

Our coverage started in the run up earlier this month with Dr David Fearnley being interviewed on BBC 1’s national news about the work we are undertaking with Stanford University in the USA to find new ways to help stop suicide. And this week it continued with radio interviews with the Rev Sara Doyle, the Clock View chaplain, Iris Benson MBE, our expert with experience, and some of our young carers who talked about the support they receive from Mersey Care, Liverpool CCG and Barnardo’s. You can catch-up on this fascinating series of interviews here.


Task Force

The scheduling gods at the beeb obviously know their stuff as the launch of their “In The Mind” seasons coincided with the publication of the much-anticipated mental health taskforce report.


The report, chaired by Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, recommended that, in the context of a tough Spending Review, an extra £1bn be invested by 2020-21 to ensure mental health forms part of the government’s view for a seven-day NHS.


I couldn’t agree more with the report when it says that “people facing crisis should have access to mental health care every day, 24 hours a day, in the same way that they can access urgent physical healthcare. I also acknowledge that the report does not duck the complexity and challenges of funding, fragmentation, variation, workforce, and data issues and the vital need to get it right”.


But let us not forget that whilst CCG programme budgets for physical health are broken down by disease, there is only one category for mental health. Local information on investment in care, by condition, is therefore essential.


The Taskforce paints an ambitious picture of improved care and treatment for people with mental health issues and we welcome this. But we know that to bring about a revolution in suicide prevention, we need to involve the whole community.


Paul Farmer is on the record as saying that this is a “landmark moment” for mental health care in this country, and a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform services and support”.


I know that we will do all we can to ensure that the opportunity becomes a reality here at Mersey Care.


The Big Brew and You

Whilst the taskforce paints an ambitious picture of improved care and treatment for people with mental health issues we should not ignore the vital role prevention and the wider community has to play.


I’m heartened to note that the Government appear to have picked up on our ‘Big Brew’ message with Alastair Burt, the Minister of State for Community and Social Care, saying the following in a speech delivered this week about young people and mental health: “It’s been said before but it’s something definitely worth repeating – better mental health starts with a conversation.”


I’m sure we can all agree with the Minister’s view. We want to get people talking about their problems over a cup of tea or coffee. So please help to spread the word; don’t forget to follow and “like” our Big Brew pages on twitter and Facebook  and encourage friends and family to download the free resources and help guides here.


Professional Standards

So we can see that this week the spotlight has fallen on a whole range of mental health matters and with that thought in mind perhaps it’s timely to remind us all of our own obligations to speak out when we need to. You may recall that last year new guidance that sets out the standards expected of healthcare professionals was published for NHS staff.  This 'duty of candour' guidance calls us to be open and honest when things go wrong.  Amongst the things it requires us to do are these two important points:


  • Report errors at an early stage so that patients are protected from harm in the future


  • Not to try to prevent colleagues or former colleagues from raising concerns about patient safety.


I want to remind everyone that we operate an open and honest learning culture here at Mersey Care in which staff should feel empowered to admit mistakes and raise concerns. If you have concerns I would urge you to bring them to attention of your line manager or get in touch with me; email


Joe Rafferty

Chief Executive