Last week saw our Trust’s Annual General Meeting. We may all be familiar with video calls and shared screens, but for the public our first ever ‘virtual AGM’ was a successful opportunity to continue to participate in this important event in the life of our foundation trust.
You can see the slides from the day here and I want to really emphasise what an astonishing year we’d had as a Trust…before things became even more astonishing and challenging in March.
That in itself is a list to be proud of and it touches all of us across divisions, services, grades and locations. Your part, direct or indirect, on ward or community – or even now from home - has made a positive difference for the people we serve.
There are things to do. Complex issues such as reducing staff sickness absence, delayed discharges from mental health services, increasing the number of service users in settled accommodation and employment and access to therapies, remain our enduring challenges. We’re working on those and we have plans in place.
I told the AGM that our strategic vision to ‘strive for perfect care’ has evolved beyond just striving for perfection in an episode of care. It’s about becoming more preventative and integrated in our approach, seeing people in the context of their families, their communities and their neighbourhoods, not as problems to be solved but as assets to be invested in. We’re transforming the way we care for people by giving them more control over their health and providing care in a joined up way that is based in the communities in which people live.
At this point in any normal year, our meeting would already be packed with positives, plans and opportunities for questions and challenge from members and attendees. This year however, all those highlights and those commitments only tell part of the story, because we now have to talk about the pandemic.
The effects of COVID-19 are shattering for individuals, their families and networks. But, as I’ve said extensively in this blog, it’s potentially also devastating for the long term viability of good mental health in society, for the whole NHS and health services and for the economy.
At the AGM, and with due reverence to those who have been personally affected by the pandemic, I outlined how Mersey Care had risen to this challenge. Financial governance was maintained without impeding service delivery. We’ve led multi-stakeholder work in our area. We’ve delivered on plans and implemented innovation at an astonishing scale. And we have done so in ways that have benefited both our patients and our staff. The technology we’ve become accustomed to – give or take the odd challenge – means people are working differently and more effectively. Patients report that virtual consultations are often beneficial. Staff (in our Culture of Care Barometer) say they’re well manged in changed times and 75 percent of responders feel well informed about what’s happening in the Trust.
My thanks to those who ‘attended’, those who spoke and those who made our virtual AGM possible. On behalf of the Board, I again offer governors, stakeholders and staff our sincere thanks for delivering for those in our care this year.
We’re only a month away from opening our second hospital of the year. The countdown to Rowan View is firmly in place. Staff have been updated about the move and how it affects them and work is being done to support service users and patients in the transition process. Our poet in residence even joined in with a new verse for us, one which will be displayed inside the hospital. Preparatory work and training are continuing apace, organisational change is concluding and the building is expected to be certified as COVID secure in early October.
I had the pleasure of showing the site to my predecessor, former Mersey Care CEO Alan Yates, last week. He’s now chair of Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership and I’ll admit to some real personal pride in what has been achieved and what Rowan View represents. Guests and stakeholders, as well as the media, are also viewing the hospital in the next few weeks. Although it will be an anxious time for many, this is a real positive and a step change in secure care.
Freedom to Speak Up
In a busy period of themes and awareness-raising, October is also Freedom to Speak up month.
To promote and encourage others to speak up, our guardians are highlighting their work and their presence. They are working on a specific anti-discriminatory standard operating procedure to further support staff and are right to assert that we are firmly committed to working in line with the FREDA principles of Fairness, Respect, Equality, Dignity and Autonomy. Look out for their messages in the weeks ahead.
Joe Rafferty CBE