It’s been a welcome relief this week to finally see the sunshine emerge from what seems like months of bad weather. Following on from the Government’s road map out of lockdown, the countdown towards Spring - a seasonal signal for regeneration and regrowth if ever there was one - seems a fitting backdrop to our growing optimism about the battle with COVID-19 and the national vaccination programme.
It's been a challenging year for us all and we need to remain vigilant for some time yet if we’re to emerge from the pandemic in a position to move forward. Yet through all the problems and challenges we’ve faced, I’m very proud of the fact that Mersey Care continues to develop its estate to ensure the best environment and facilities possible for our patients and service users.
As many of you will know, Mossley Hill Hospital is one of the oldest parts of our estate and has been at the forefront for modernisation for several years. Over the past six years our ambitious inpatients’ estates programme has seen the opening of Clock View Hospital north of the city and the creation of Hartley Hospital in Southport and a completely refurbished Hope Centre for addictions in Liverpool.
More recently, in the middle of the pandemic, we were able to open Rowan View medium secure unit at Maghull Health Park, which is to name just a few of the highlights and not including capital schemes across numerous wards and creation of community outreach centres such as The Life Rooms.
I’m proud we’re now able to proceed onto our fifth major hospital new-build project in that period for our service users and staff in the centre and south of the city with the Mossley Hill redevelopment. This is a tremendous window of opportunity and we’re moving quickly to pursue funding being made available nationally to eradicate dormitory wards in mental health inpatient settings.
Most of the services at Mossley Hill have already moved off site and the remaining staff, principally the older people’s community mental health team, will be moving off site by the end of this month. Our Local Services Division is working closely with the Estates team to ensure a smooth transition.
We will be closing off the site to enable the preliminaries to demolition and redevelopment taking place. In health planning terms all this will be a major achievement and I thank all those involved in the scheme so far. We still have many hurdles ahead in securing the obligatory oversight and funding approvals, Board of Directors and NHS Improvement sign-off, contracts for construction and much more.
It’s been a long journey to eradicate dormitory-style accommodation and I’m sorry staff and patients at Mossley Hill, Broadoak and Windsor House have had to wait longer than anticipated. It’s been one of my biggest commitments since I started here at Mersey Care to ensure patients have single en-suite bedrooms in therapeutic accommodation. Once the first bricks are laid next year on a new hospital it will be, not the end of the Mossley Hill story, but just a new beginning.
The Same Old Song
I make no apologies for repeating myself in my weekly blog, despite the growing optimism towards COVID-19. We know community prevalence is starting to recede, but it’s still way too high, so we’re winning the battle but we’re not in a situation to celebrate victory in the war just yet. That’s an important distinction and I don’t want anyone relaxing or thinking those important messages of infection control - using PPE, washing hands and social distancing - can now be relaxed.
There can be a sense of becoming almost deaf to the same messages all the time – Hands, Face, Space – but I’m taking my cue from the old Motown Group, the Four Tops. Attempting to find a follow up to their hit ‘I Can’t Help Myself’, they succeeded in doing so with a similar sounding number called ‘The Same Old Song.’ Repetition can sometimes bring great success and I’ll keep reinforcing the messages until we win the battle with COVID-19.
I’m sharing a useful diagram of the impact of wearing masks on the transmission of the virus below and precautions like this will probably be with us for some time yet. Until we know the vaccine completely stops transmission, we’ll have to continue remaining circumspect.
We do know vaccination curbs the most harmful effects of this virus, particularly in younger people, so we can move COVID-19 from the disaster it’s been, particularly for some of our colleagues and loved ones, to a version of flu, it becomes a community manageable disease.
Once we get into the second round of vaccinations later this year, there’ll have been an opportunity to edit the vaccines, we currently have so they are most effective against the latest strain of the virus. This is exactly what happens with the flu vaccination every year.
There are many reasons to be optimistic, so much so that the NHS is turning its attention away from just COVID-19 towards what is euphemistically called ‘recovery.’ No one knows how long it’s going to take us to get back to what we would consider normal, pre-pandemic, times but it’s not going to be like switching a light on.
My guess is that it will take around a couple of years to get back to normal and I think the challenge that our executive team would like to present to us all is this: do we want to return to where we were before? Or do we want to improve on what happened before? Do we want to take this opportunity to embed all the things we’ve learned and take all the wisdom we’ve gained over the course of the last year, would we want to restructure ourselves in a different way?
It’s a very interesting proposition for us as we begin to head into a new era by welcoming colleagues from north Sefton and Formby and North West Boroughs into a bigger Mersey Care family. As part of that process we agreed, as the executive team this week, that we’re going to return to the Mega Conversations, for those that remember them from a few years ago.
We haven’t really re-visited them since, and I’d like to open them up to all staff and to our service users – what do they think we should look like in the future? This original initiative brought out several bugbears that were relatively easy to fix, made people’s working lives that much easier and took away a lot of the irritability from our services.
Sometimes they were little things like painting a ward, improving the furniture or smartening up kitchen areas so they became somewhere you actually wanted to go and eat your sandwich. None of that is hard for us to do but sometimes when you get into the busy world of running a big organisation you forget about the little things and they really matter.
I can’t let this week’s blog pass without passing on my own congratulations to our long-standing Kensington district nurse, Georgina Morrison who has reached two remarkable milestones this week.
Reaching 70 is no mean feat but reaching 50 years of NHS service is something quite exceptional. I can only imagine what she has experienced during her career, the innovations, changes and emergence of the NHS into the organisation it is today.
It is a truly inspiring story, which was covered in last week’s Liverpool Echo. For those of you who missed it, you can find it here: https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/devoted-nurse-still-working-after-19884425
Many congratulations Georgina.
Joe Rafferty CBE