In Mind: Chief Executive Joe Rafferty gives his views on an eventful week for mental health

Zero Suicide At Work

It’s been quite a momentous week for everyone who has worked so hard to put mental health and suicide prevention higher up the health agenda over the last few years. Those of you who have been at the Trust for some time will know that a few years ago, mental health was like the elephant in the room – everyone knew it was there but no one wanted to talk about it.

One of Mersey Care’s main strategies during my time as Chief Executive has been to boost the profile of our organisation, its workforce and their innovative work and also ensure mental health is talked about at senior levels.

We still have much to do to achieve our aims, but this week has certainly helped in our objectives. To mark World Mental Health Day earlier this week, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of Jackie Doyle-Price as the first ever Ministerial Lead for Suicide Prevention.

She already knows some of the work we have done at Mersey Care having visited Life Rooms Walton and Ashworth High Secure Hospital earlier this year and we look forward to working with her moving forward with Mersey Care and, of course, the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA).

This is a real step in the right direction as her brief will be to work across national and local government, with suicide and self-harm prevention experts, clinicians and those personally affected by suicide.

We need to work together to identify the best practices and create a new strategy to be applied across the country. This is the approach we’re taking at ZSA and we’re delighted central Government has also announced it’s committing up to £2 million for the ZSA over the next two years to allow us to work with the Minister to improve suicide awareness and training across the NHS and beyond.

I should also mention the determined support from Steve Mallen, the founder of the MindEd charity, and Geraldine Strathdee, the former National Mental Health Lead at NHS England, in helping the ZSA secure this funding, which we’ve been talking about with the Government for some time.

As a self-formed partnership between mental health providers and their partners, the ZSA has already made significant national progress on a voluntary basis. With the funding announced by the Secretary of State, this positive collaboration will now go from strength to strength. 

This announcement of Government backing for the ZSA is fantastic news for every person who has ever struggled with suicidal thoughts and everyone left behind by someone who has taken their own life. The ZSA believe just one life lost is one too many.

The ZSA is already acting as a catalyst and focal point for a broad range of suicide prevention activity across the widest possible group of mutually supportive NHS and partner organisations in this country. As part of this work, the Alliance training, which we developed here at Mersey Care, has now been taken by thousands of people with each one of them now becoming equipped to engage with those at risk. For those of you who haven’t done it so far, can I please urge you to take 20 minutes of your time and take the training – it might just save a life.

Speak Up

I have always kept great store in ensuring Mersey Care is a transparent organisation where everyone feels they can report concerns about safety, quality or the effectiveness of services and know their views will be taken seriously.

We have already introduced a ‘Just and Learning Culture’ to this organisation, changing the culture so we look at the process rather than individuals when things go wrong. I was also pleased to see that Simon Stevens, NHS England’s Chief Executive, chose to highlight the role of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians within the NHS as part of the Speak Up Month campaign.

I was particularly taken by his view that the NHS “should develop a culture where speaking up is business as usual“ and “matters they raise are used as an opportunity to learn and improve.” This is the culture Mersey Care is attempting to ingrain in everything we do.


I saw many familiar faces from Mersey Care at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium on Thursday when our organisation played host for the Positive Practice in Mental Health Awards. I know Angie and Tony Russell, the driving forces behind the collaborative, went out of the way to thank everyone from Mersey Care that worked so hard to make the evening a success and I would like to mirror their thoughts – well done to everyone involved.

I was particularly pleased with the two awards that Mersey Care won on the night, the Health and Wellbeing team winning the Workforce Wellbeing category while Life Rooms were highly commended in three categories and won the Innovation in Community Mental Health award. They also managed to squeeze more people onto the stage to collect the award than I thought was possible!

Pictured above: Ben Towell, our Health and Wellbeing Coordinator, leading the team that won the Workforce Wellbeing prize

Pictured above: The Life Rooms team celebrates their award in the Innovation in Community Mental Health category in the week the Lord Lieutenant officially opened the Southport Life Rooms.

I’d also like to make a final mention to all the team that have helped reduce self-harm on inpatient wards and have earned a shortlisting in the Patient Safety category of the HSJ Awards 2018 – well done and good luck for the awards decision later this year.


All aboard

Last Monday was the launch of this year’s Flu Jab campaign and began with a Flu Friends bus travelling around several key sites in the Trust to protect our workforce from such a terrible virus. I’m told it was a successful bus journey, which was underlined by a short video of the day being viewed nearly 500 times in the 12 hours after it was posted.

We want everyone who works on the frontline to have the jab so they can protect their patients, service users, carers, colleagues and friends and family. Most of the Executive Board have now had their jabs, so please look out for further injection sessions and get inoculated.


Joe Rafferty

Chief Executive