In Mind: The new COVID-19 vaccine is the main focus of the latest blog from Chief Executive Joe Rafferty

I’ve been waiting for some time to start my weekly blog with the words we’ve all been waiting for – ‘We have a vaccine.’ Everyone has been hoping this moment would arrive since the pandemic first moved from being distant news into all our lives and it’s a credit to everyone who’s worked so hard on this to get us to this point.

From those who have worked in labs and clinics in the UK to those working overseas, they all deserve our thanks for delivering a way out of COVID-19 in a hugely accelerated time scale. This has all been achieved at a time when expertise has often been derided, and science and knowledge undermined by baseless conspiracy theorists, so we should celebrate the skills and dedication of scientists and health professionals.

We should also be pleased with the robustness of our processes and the confidence in the clinical systems we have. I remember saying at the time of NHS70 that we’re privileged to work in a profession that touches everyone’s lives, and I’m never prouder than when we can all play a part in changing lives for the better.

It’s not a live vaccine of course, it doesn’t contain SARS-COV2 particles and won’t give you symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Yes, you can have the vaccine if you haven’t had your flu jab, but for the fullest protection we really do need people to have both.

It’s still out there

The way we’ve dealt with COVID-19 is a credit to us all. We’ve managed to respond to an incident, keep our services going and watch them improve. We’ve also played a huge role in the system in Liverpool and Sefton, and in many places from Lancashire to Manchester. We’ve also delivered for the wider system, including playing our part, alongside Liverpool City Council, Liverpool CCG and Liverpool University, in the highly successful Systematic, Meaningful, Asymptomatic, Repeated Testing (SMART) which has had a significant impact in Liverpool in helping control viral transmission.

As things stand nearly a week after the end of lockdown, some parts of our services have staff in Tier 3, others of us are living and working in Tier 2. We must be aware of this in our own behaviour and how we run services. The general view is we’re coming out of the second stage, which saw higher rates than the first wave. Now, thankfully, we’re seeing a decline in numbers.

The R transmission rate is now below one across the region and positivity rates in Liverpool are down to 1.8 percent (at one point that was in the mid-teens), although figures are higher in some of our areas (around 5 percent). We’ve come from a very high position in the North West. We still have significant numbers but they’re coming down and we no longer have any outbreaks in the Trust.

However, please remember that coming down is not the same as low. We’re still managing an incident where there are relatively high levels of infection compared to the summer. It’s dangerous to think we’re no longer living with COVID-19. Within the Trust we continue to operate 24/7 emergency Bronze, Silver, Gold systems, we’re measuring and compliant with infection control processes - and remember we haven’t had winter yet.

We’re not yet seeing the activity you’d expect with the season, nor the impact of people coming together for Christmas. As leaders, we’re saying we must urge staff to maintain standards. We cannot drop our guard. Please keep up your personal compliance. We have to maintain safe distancing, wear masks, wash hands, excellent infection, prevention and control. Compliance is so important.

Hesketh move

Finally, my best wishes to all the staff involved in our latest ‘big move’ as we embark on a new chapter for mental health provision in Sefton. Today (Monday) is not only completion day for Phase 2 of our purpose-built Hartley Hospital in Southport, but also heralds the beginning of the end for the century old former hotel that became the Hesketh Centre.

Local Division transfer their last few services to Hartley Hospital this Friday and ahead of the move colleagues have been sharing their work-life memories of the Hesketh Centre as well as looking forward to the new state of the art environment at Hartley.


Joe Rafferty CBE

Chief Executive