Chief Executive's blog, voting season

Friday, 1 May 2015

Voting season

Mental Health Campaign

By this time next week we should have a good idea of what our new government looks like, or at least whether one party will have a majority or we have another coalition made up of more than one political party. We may have to wait a few days – or a week as we saw in the previous election – to learn who will be living at No 10 for the foreseeable future, but the campaigning will have come to an end.

What cannot be denied in this election, however, is how mental health has become a major issue for the people of this country. Any of you who have followed elections over the years will know that the future of the NHS is always one of the key issues and it has again been at the forefront of all of the political parties’ campaigning.

Going back to our ‘Your Voice, Your Change’ conversations, I heard loud and clear from you that you wanted Mersey Care to represent the views of mental health at the highest levels of government and with decision making bodies in health and social care.

Over the past few years, we have done just that and have engaged widely with members of the Government and with commissioners at all levels to help them understand the complexities of mental health and the challenges that we face as services both now and in the future. It is testament to the great things that these people have seen when visiting us here in Merseyside that the conversations about mental health have moved on so dramatically over the past months. Yet again we see Mersey Care leading the way on campaigning for those we serve’

There used to be an old adage that there were no votes in mental health or prisons, but I think these last few weeks have really changed all that. Nearly every party, with the exception of the Scottish National Party, have devoted significant sections of their manifestos to mental health and whether you or I agree or disagree with their plans, the important thing is that mental health is now an important part of the political agenda. You can see how the different parties are planning to deal with mental health here.

We can only hope that whoever triumphs next Thursday in the General Election will continue to regard mental health as an important issue for the wellbeing of this country so that we move closer to parity of esteem between mental and physical health and move out of the shadows as the unspoken service.

Time to Vote

Given that it is now voting season, the Kate Granger Awards are after your nominations for their Compassionate Care Awards, which celebrate people making a positive difference to patient care. Kate Granger is an English doctor who started the #hellomynameiscampaign which was developed from her own personal experience of receiving care in the NHS.

She was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 when she was 29 while training to become a geriatrician. Her campaign #hellomynameis has become a national phenomenon and many NHS trusts have taken up Kate’s challenge to personalise medicine, care and treatment so that we always ‘see the person and treat the need’.

Now I meet lots of Mersey Care colleagues out in services all the time and I know and am so proud of the talent, dedication and compassion of the staff at Mersey Care but maybe it is about time the outside world starting valuing you in the same way.

Volunteer Appreciation

I have written before about the great contribution volunteers make to Mersey Care’s services and the great care and support that we are able to offer to our service users and the people who support and care for them. It is impossible to put a value on the scale of their contribution to the Trust, including the warmth and compassion they bring to our service users, their families and carers at some of the most challenging times of their lives.

It is not often we have a chance to recognise them for their efforts, but you can now do so through our Volunteer Achievement Awards, which will be held during National Volunteering Week starting today. There are four categories of awards – best newcomer, best learner, improving the service user and/or carer experience and outstanding contribution – and it is up to each and every one of you to nominate a volunteer that has made a difference to service users, carer and staff. All nominations should reach Megan Taylor by 15 May, 2015.

Nursing and Midwifery Revalidation

As some of you may know, Mersey Care has been chosen as the first mental health provider to take part in a pilot revalidation scheme introduced by Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). All nurses and midwives will need to engage with it to demonstrate they practise safely and effectively throughout their career.  

You can access the latest news regarding the revalidation here. This is an extremely important piece of work and it is again great testament to the nursing colleagues we have at Mersey Care that we have been chosen to become part of this important pilot. I know that you will give this your full support.


Our Trust roadshows are now in full swing and are a really good way to get up to date on the wide range of activity currently ongoing in the Trust and are proving popular. They give us a chance to reflect on staff achievements and contribution towards our aspiration for Perfect Care over the last 12 months, as well as looking forward to some of the priorities for the coming year.

All staff are encouraged to attend one of the events taking place in their division, which offer an opportunity to meet, ask questions and have open discussions with Trust and divisional leaders. Here are the links to access all the roadshow dates for secure, local and corporate divisions.

Zero Hero Campaign

Most of you who have worked in the NHS for any length of time will know there has been a zero tolerance attitude towards violence since 1999. It was a well-intentioned initiative but one that proved unworkable for people working in mental health. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, which means patients, staff, carers and relatives.

I am very proud of our new Zero Hero campaign, which includes zero zones where service users, their relatives and staff will all be encouraged to be Zero Heroes by finding an alternative to aggressive behaviour in all its forms. That will foster an environment where they will all feel safe and secure and be treated with dignity and respect.

Merseyside Police

I have met the Merseyside Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, in the last week, who is as pleased as I am about the excellent working partnership between Mersey Care and the police. She has been particularly impressed that patients detained on Section 136 have reduced by over 40% since the introduction of street cars.

She is also impressed with the excellent reputation of our Criminal Justice Liaison Team has in making what are often very complex, inter-agency relationships operate smoothly. In many ways when people with mental illness encounter the criminal justice system, there is a potential for stigma to rapidly and destructively emerge. We are very lucky in Mersey Care to have Mark Sargent and his team creating the sort of high level partnership working that is a national exemplar and which keeps so many vulnerable people safe.

Ashworth recognition

I also have great news that Dave McKenna and his security team at Ashworth have received a 99% score for the annual NOMS prison service audit results. While Ashworth is not a prison, it has to comply with equivalent security levels to make sure the hospital environment is safe for patients and staff. For the past few years the team have been scoring a close to perfect result, which is great assurance, but also a lot of hard work. Well done all involved. 

Tell Joe

One item that has come to light through the feedback from our roadshows is that a small number of staff do not realise they can contact me directly if there is an issue they want to raise. I know sometimes you have problems you do not want your colleagues or line manager to know about, in which case email me at and I will be in touch as soon as possible.

Joe Rafferty, Chief Executive