Executive Directors

Executive Directors

Joe Rafferty, Chief Executive

Appointed in September 2012.

Before coming to Mersey Care Joe held the post of Director of Commissioning Support at the NHS Commissioning Board, having national responsibility for the design and delivery of a significant component of the commissioning side reforms outlined in the White Paper: Liberating the NHS.  Prior to this, he was seconded from the Chief Executive role at NHS Central Lancashire, to become the Director of Commissioning Development for NHS North West, with a remit to lead the development of commissioning reforms across the North West of England

From 2007 to 2010 he was the Chief Executive of NHS Central Lancashire, with an annual commissioning budget of £750m. During tenure, NHS Central Lancashire became the most improved PCT in the North West and one of the most improved in England, according to the World Class Commissioning national assessment.  Joe was the Regional Director of Commissioning and Strategy for NHS North West from 2006-2008.  Other Board-level roles have included Director of Performance in Cumbria and Lancashire SHA and Director of System Reform at Bolton Hospital NHS Trust. Prior to these roles he was part of the team that set up Greater Manchester SHA.

Joe joined the NHS in 1999 as a National Trainee on the NHS General Management Training Scheme  and previously worked at a post-doctoral level as a team leader in molecular genetics at the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research in Manchester and before that at Strangeway’s Research Laboratory in Cambridge.

Chair of the Executive Committee.


Elaine Darbyshire, Executive Director of Communications and Corporate Governance

Elaine was appointed to the Trust in June 2013

From 2014-15 she was seconded 2 days a week to the Department of Health as the Deputy Director of Communications for the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge.

Before joining Mersey Care she held the post of Director of NHS Communications at NHS England (North, Midlands & East England).  From 2011-2012 she was the Director of Communications for NHS North of England, covering the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber areas of England.  From 2009-2011 she was the Director of Strategic Communications of NHS North West. Prior to joining the NHS in 2009, she worked for Guardian Media Group’s Regional Division for 22 years in a number of posts including Marketing Director, Communications and Public Affairs Director. She was a NED at East Cheshire NHS Trust (2007-2009)..

Member of the Executive Committee, the Performance, Investment & Finance Committee and the Liverpool Community Services Transition Sub Committee.


Dr David Fearnley, Medical Director

Appointed as the Medical Director in August 2005. Deputy Chief Executive (2007-10). Since 2016, Chair of NHS England’s Adult Secure Clinical Reference Group and NHS England’s Associate National Director for Secure Mental Health.

David qualified in 1993 (University of Wales College of Medicine), and undertook basic psychiatric training; joined the higher forensic psychiatry training scheme in 1998, working in high and medium secure units. He was appointed as a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist at Ashworth Hospital in 2001. Clinical Director of Mental Health Services and then Associate Medical Director at Ashworth Hospital. He has been the Royal College of Psychiatrists Special Advisor on Appraisal since 2009 and was awarded Royal College of Psychiatrists ‘Psychiatrist of the Year’ 2009.

David chaired the North West Mental Health Care Pathways Group (2009/10) and has been a Board Member Advancing Quality Alliance (AQuA) since 2011.

Member of the Executive Committee and Quality Assurance Committee.


Neil Smith, Executive Director of Finance/Deputy Chief Executive

Appointed September 2004, Neil assumed the Deputy Chief Executive portfolio in 2013.  Neil was previously the Executive Director of Finance and Performance, Mersey Care NHS Trust  (2004-2013).

He was a Regional Finance Trainee (1985-1989) and his previous roles have been Senior Finance Manager roles in acute and community hospitals (1989-1992), Chief Financial Planner at Liverpool Health Authority (1992-1995), Deputy Director of Finance at Sefton Health Authority (1995-2000), Director of Finance at Sefton Health Authority (2000-2001), National Finance Lead High Secure Services at the Department of Health (2001-2002) and  Head of Finance and Performance Management at Ashton, Leigh and Wigan PCT (2002-2004).

He is a Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Qualified Accountant.

Member of the Executive Committee and the Performance, Investment & Finance Committee.


Amanda Oates, Executive Director of Workforce

Amanda was appointed in August 2013, initially as a non voting member of the Board, prior to her appointment in January 2015 as Executive Director of Workforce.

She has previous experience as HR Director at two other NHS trusts and as board director since 2008.  She delivered significant improvements in HR and L&D and led the team to win the national HR team of the year at the 2013 HPMA Awards at the Walton Centre NHS FT.  Amanda spearheaded a regional Health and Wellbeing initiative through the development of the NHS Games, and gained recognition both regionally, winning the Health and Wellbeing Leader Award at the NHS Leadership  Academy Awards in 2012, and nationally, as the HR Director of the Year 2018 at the HPMA awards in 2018.  She is an elected member of the Cheshire and Merseyside Local Workforce Education Group and a member of the HR Network Chairs  group.  She joined the NHS in 1998 from the private sector as a Graduate Trainee.

Member of the Executive Committee, the Performance, Investment & Finance Committee, the Quality Assurance Committee and the Liverpool Community Services Transition Sub Committee


Trish Bennett, Executive Director of Nursing and Operations

Trish was appointed as voting member of the Board on 1 March 2018, previously being the Director of Integration  from 1 August 2016 (a non-voting member of the Board).

Trish has worked in the NHS for over 30 years in various nursing leadership positions in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester in both provider and commissioning roles and joined Mersey Care from NHS England, were she was the Director of Nursing for the Lancashire & Greater Manchester Sub Region responsible for professional nurse leadership, oversight and leadership to safeguarding adults and children, clinical leadership to the transformation service change programmes.

In her previous roles Trish has been responsible for the professional leadership of the Merseyside nursing workforce. She was also responsible for service improvement, incorporating quality and safety, safeguarding, resilience and emergency planning, continuing healthcare, equality and diversity, Choose and Book, children’s commissioning, mental health, urgent care, dementia, offender health and substance misuse.

Member of the Executive Committee, the Performance, Investment & Finance Committee, the Quality Assurance Committee and the Liverpool Community Services Transition Sub Committee.


Non-Voting Directors

Louise Edwards, Director of Strategy

Louise was appointed in November 2012 and was made a non-voting member of the Board from 1 September 2015.

She is an experienced Board level strategist and leader who has a track record of achievement in leading change in both NHS commissioning and provider organisations, policy development, and service improvement across the public sector. She has extensive experience at both strategic and operational levels in the NHS, having had Board level roles in primary care trusts and NHS trusts with responsibility for strategy and planning, organisational development, communications, patient and public involvement and partnership development. Louise has also worked on strategy and commissioning development for strategic health authorities, and on commissioning assurance for the NHS Commissioning Board (now NHS England).

Prior to joining the NHS in 2005, Louise had leadership roles in the not-for-profit sector and was an academic at Manchester University. This varied experience across health, social care and government has enabled her to develop a strong network and deep insight into strategic change in the health service, in national government and local government, and health care improvement in partnership with other sectors.

Member of the Executive Committee and attends the Performance, Investment and Finance Committee.