In Mind: Chief Executive Joe Rafferty talks about services resuming and veterans' study

Normal service resumes?

I began last week’s blog by sharing positive news as services resume and spoke about how we’ve all had to adapt as we provide care differently and safely. There was no blue print as to how to respond to a Level 4 pandemic – but we worked it out. The flexibility of staff has been fantastic and we are delivering on things that we have never done before. These range from opening new wards for Covid to supporting more than 80 people living on the street over the crisis. Our care plans are rightly focussed on protecting some of the most vulnerable people who are often isolated and lonely and an example of this is the great work of the crisis response line. This has been a phenomenal achievement, which is seeing many younger adults 12, months ahead of the national timetable with an average of 95 calls a day.

Always, patient safety must remain at the core of what we are about. Delivering this means staff working at their best and feeling supported. I again refer back to the Culture of Care Barometer – where we asked how staff felt during tough times. We had a massive response and it’s incumbent on us to act and learn from what staff told us. It was excellent to see that staff feel connected and informed.

This is about knowing our own population and knowing our own staff. We want to support working in an agile way and continue to support working at home where this is best and safest. Covid spikes in Lancashire, in St Helens, areas of Liverpool and indeed in communities around our own head office mean we have to be really mindful of safety. These hotspots are appearing even as social distancing rules change and the economy continues to reopen.

As the outside world starts to relax, we must remember that staff can be factors of transmission into healthcare facilities. Especially in our own secure environments we need to be aware that it is not the population of patients that’s changing, it is footfall on the ward that could bring in infection. As the risk of picking up Covid in the community goes up as social distancing relaxes and “normality” resumes we must not forget that we are living with a deadly disease. The message hasn’t changed – you need to look after yourself and your family when you go into places where distancing will be hard. By doing that responsibly, you are looking after people in our services. We all have a role to keep reminding the wider world that when you walk into services, the NHS is still observing a set of rules to keep apart. Everyone has permission from me and all our senior clinicians to be proactive about challenging people kindly if PPE isn’t being worn appropriately. I’ll go further: be a role model. Do the right thing and be seen to do the right thing.

Our achievements as divisions and teams are really about a legacy of lives saved and lives improved. The people we see tend to be at one edge of the inequality spectrum and we know Covid has affected them more than others. As I said to colleagues this week in our managers’ forum, the first Covid peak may be over and we are learning from that, but there will be further waves. The impact of resource restrictions on non urgent services will be felt, as will the impact of interrupted care on long term conditions. We need to plan for another wave as we don’t yet have evidence that Covid will disappear or that a vaccine can be delivered to everyone who will need it. We can hope that it won’t happen but, as I often say, hope isn’t a strategy.


Veterans’ study

Recently Mersey Care was accredited as a Veteran Aware organisation by the Veterans Covenant Healthcare for our commitment to the servicemen and women of this country. If you are a member or ex member of the armed forces community, can I ask you to support an important new study which is firmly linked to our mental wellbeing agenda.

The UK Armed Forces Veterans’ Health and Gambling Study is the first UK-wide survey of gambling attitudes and behaviour, healthcare use and physical and mental health. They want to hear from you whether you gamble or not, at


Joe Rafferty CBE, Chief Executive