In Mind: Chief Executive Joe Rafferty talks about changing times

Many of us are talking about what we might have been doing right now “in other times”: holidays lost, weddings postponed, missed concerts or just being with friends and family. There have been a number of major religious festivals across the faiths recently too, all of which have required gatherings and commemorations to be observed in very different ways. Before plans were altered to create a VE Day Holiday on Friday, some of us would’ve had a Bank Holiday already this week on Monday. Things have definitely changed very quickly of late!

These are difficult times for us all. If we try to think positively we can seize the opportunity that this change has brought. There can always be positives to be found: a chance to work differently, spend more time with our home and household, innovate in our care, step up and innovate in our practice, show kindness by taking some food as a gift to a neighbour, or even get round to those often put off jobs in the house. All these things, whether big or small, will be a way of acknowledging the huge efforts of carers and key workers to support the vulnerable through this difficult period in our lives. We should look back and recall everything that we did differently and better. We remembered those who suffered. We made a positive change.

Last week the Trust Board of Directors met for our regular meeting. Again colleagues joined online, this time using Zoom. The scrutiny and reporting processes needed to run our organisation must continue and I was proud to reflect on the many positives and the innovations we are seeing at all levels throughout the organisation, which enables great practice to thrive in the most challenging of times. We also remembered those who we have lost.

At our Board I said that we are absolutely focussed on supporting divisions and teams to deliver the care expected of us through Covid. We cannot forget that service users, patients and their families and carers rely on us to continue to support them all in our services and that’s come rain or shine. We must do everything we can to make sure that everyone stays safe and well. This expectation is both for right now and, importantly as the long-term effects of Covid become clear, into the future as well. Mersey Care, with our joint traditions of strong mental health support and close community ties, stands in a prime position to help in this respect. It’s happening now, at the Life Rooms and their unique offer and far beyond. Things change – and we’re up to making the very best from it that we can.

Royal Liverpool is a case in point. “A huge mass effort”, the papers put it, and it certainly was! Three specialist wards have been opened inside the new building to help dozens of patients recover from Covid. Mersey Care is right in there, with 11 of us, from the children’s service, the integrated nursing service line and health visitors redeployed as HCAs, volunteering to play a vital role in re-enabling patients. I have led this collaboration alongside a great collaboration of health and social care colleagues across Cheshire and Merseyside. The whole team, working with our health partners, has quickly and effectively been able to improve our community care in the city and our part in the wider system.

The other week we noted, almost in passing, that Mersey Care’s own new hospital has seen another service move in ahead of schedule. This development at Hartley Hospital would have been a major achievement at any time and the short video of thanks from Chief Operating Office Donna Robinson has deservedly been seen more than 1800 times online. Our estates and facilities teams are continuing to deliver the work of the trust both in their support from our FMAs in keeping wards clean and safe right through to our strategic capital team working tirelessly on developing plans to replace our older dormitory estate.

Work continues on our other major new build – the Rowan View medium secure hospital in Maghull. Careful social distancing means construction is still going on and we aren’t far from our original timetable to complete what I think will be a world-leading facility when it’s handed over to us in the summer. Recruitment continues. Our plans for the wider Maghull Health Park remain firmly on the agenda: more than 1500 jobs there, which would make us a significant major employer in the area, offering opportunities to be part of a centre of excellence for psychiatry, psychology and associated professions. It’s great to see that we are focussed on the future as we also deal with the present.

A reminder of that VE Day commemoration. There will be big screens across Liverpool with commemorative displays and buildings will be lit up red, white and blue. There will be a Digital Wall of Honour: with an online archive to pay tribute to the men and women who died serving their country. And a number of local businesses have agreed to special discounts on VE anniversary weekend for service and ex-service personnel so please see the briefing to learn more and commemorate safely.

Once again, my warmest thanks to staff on the front line of Covid, on our wards, in the community, across our region and also in the offices, vehicles and services that, in changing times, continue to make Mersey Care such a significant presence in the health economy.

Joe Rafferty CBE
Chief Executive