In Mind: Chief Executive Joe Rafferty talks about flu, covid, staff recognition and more.

Flu Campaign Begins

We have trailed it and trained for it and today our vital flu campaign begins across Mersey Care.

In previous years our team have taken the flu bus around our sites with balloons to create some attention. This year we find ourselves in a very different situation. I would hope the backdrop of COVID-19 sets out the message very clearly indeed: respiratory infections are incredibly serious.

We must protect ourselves and our patients. So with a very simple online booking system and a real sense that the NHS must protect itself to protect the wider population I’m asking you to please have your flu jab. It’s important for the myriad reasons you have heard me set out in many blogs before, but this year it bears special significance because of COVID-19.


You will all by now appreciate the prevalence of COVID-19 is again rising in the populations we serve. As we move into autumn and winter it will prove operationally difficult if we cannot distinguish influenza and COVID-19 symptoms. The more widespread we can see flu vaccination happening the easier it will be for us all, public and healthcare workers alike, to prioritise approaches to handling respiratory symptoms.


One of the most common questions people ask me is ‘when might there be a vaccine for COVID-19?’  Soon, I hope. But we know for sure there’s a vaccine available for influenza. Don’t think one is more important than the other – get your flu vaccine booked as soon as possible and get stage one protection in place. Save a life – maybe even your own.


Stay Safe

There have been major increases in COVID-19 cases. As has been widely discussed this weekend, further restrictions are being introduced from tomorrow (Tuesday) across parts of the North West and other areas to curb infection rates. These add to restrictions already in place in parts of Lancashire and will ban residents from socialising with other people outside of their own households or support bubble in private homes and gardens.


In Liverpool, Wirral, Knowsley, St. Helens, Sefton, Halton, Warrington and also in Blackburn with Darwen, the Ribble Valley and other areas, we’re also asked only to use public transport for essential purposes such as travelling to work. The message is: ‘hands, face, space’ and this is all in addition to the national ‘rule of six’.

I really want you to think about how to take this message, which we effectively promote and live inside the Trust, out into your communities. The prevalence figures for COVID-19 indicate widespread community transmission. It’s critical you reinforce safe distancing, face covering and good hand hygiene at every opportunity,


This helps to avoid both community spread to the vulnerable and also to prevent asymptomatic spread in our facilities. Over the next few weeks we’ll be auditing the consistent, correct use of PPE across all Mersey Care services – please support those doing this work.


We’re rigorously focused on this: our services continue and we will communicate any changes quickly and clearly. As Mersey Care staff we will support our patients and each other. We’ll also conduct our lives responsibly and with real consideration for those around us, protecting them from COVID and supporting their mental health as our troubling times continue. Stay safe.




The People Plan and the Staff Survey


Covid has been a catalyst for new ways of working. We’ve all been compelled to be flexible and make the best use of skills and experience. In Mersey Care, we’ve pledged to continue to upskill staff and capitalise on the unprecedented interest in the NHS and careers. The new NHS People Plan looks at all of this: locally, we’re recruiting to services such as our emerging centre of excellence on Maghull Health Park, and really focussing on areas that need particular attention, such as reaching into areas of under representation.


A YouGov poll from early in the pandemic discussed in a corporate group meeting last week says only six percent of British people want things to return to the way they were pre-pandemic. And in our own staff, just seven percent reported a poor or very poor experience homeworking to the last Culture of Care Barometer. We haven’t dropped one ball or missed one statutory target working in this new way.


Staff are feeling happier and more engaged than ever. I’m totally committed, however, to hearing more about your experiences and continuing to find ways to support you more.


I know we regularly ask your views in surveys and the Barometer. As the leader of a learning organisation I make no apology for it: we need to hear you and keep listening, and never more so than in a time of great change. So, an early trail for the next NHS staff survey that’s coming soon. This time, the national survey will have many of the usual questions being asked to provide comparable data, providing us with invaluable insights.


Additionally some questions specific to the COVID-19 pandemic have been added to give more understanding of the impact it’s having on NHS staff. For more information visit: As always, we want to hear from you in order to make sure we can respond to your views. Bear in mind, it’s totally confidential.



Your recognition

On Thursday I was pleased to join all my executive colleagues on Zoom to meet more than 100 colleagues. Each one of them had been nominated for Team or Employee of the Month during the first months of COVID. Execs came together to recognise and thank them for their commitment and determination in what has possibly been the most professionally and organisationally difficult time we will ever know.


It seems right to celebrate what we did during the height of the pandemic and, with a proper sense of reverence, reflect on how we’ve lived our values. They are a flashlight when it gets dark, aiding us to find the right way through the obstacles. Our values help at those most difficult times to pick out what really matters and move us on to the next point.


Underneath the celebratory tone, we need to bear in mind that our values are critical to us in our growth as a trust and especially through the pandemic. Having looked through the nominations, it’s just staggering what staff have done. People have a real sense of urgency that ‘good’ is no longer enough, we need to move to excellence. And we see so much of this just now and it was great to recognise some of that on Thursday.  My board colleague Louise Edwards spoke of the event putting fire in our bellies and Amanda Oates gave a timely reminder we should all thank colleagues and use the thank you facility on yourSpace to recognise our positive culture. When did you last use it?


Month of Mental Health Awareness


Kindness and taking time to thank people are important (and totally free) ways to improve someone’s day. It may indeed give them the lift needed to help them manage wider woes and challenges to their mental health. At the extremes of this are the anguish and personal turmoil that can lead to suicide.


In this month of mental health awareness I’d like to ask everyone to take the training. Every single death by suicide is a catastrophe that devastates families, friends, colleagues and communities. As a trust, we’re playing a national role in keeping awareness on the wider agenda and we all must up our game: how many preventable deaths would we tolerate in any other area of clinical care?

Finally, Shanah Tovah to those who celebrated Jewish New Year this weekend.


Joe Rafferty CBE

Chief Executive