In Mind: Chief Executive Joe Rafferty reflects on the opening of the new Life Rooms Bootle in his latest blog

Welcome to Life Rooms Bootle

You’ll recall I wrote briefly about the publication of the NHS’s Long Term plan last week, which sets out the Government’s agenda and main areas of focus for the next 10 years.

I’ve spent the last week looking at the plan in more detail and the implications for this organisation and have outlined my thoughts below. What was made abundantly clear in the announcement, though, was that mental health – and a focus on young people in particular – is going to be become a major priority at Government level.

With that in mind, there could never have been a better time for the launch of Life Rooms Bootle, which has been developed as a joint project with Hugh Baird College and is built on the site of the former St Winefride’s Roman Catholic Church.

Two open days this week were extremely well received (see pictures below) and provided an opportunity for members of the general public, stakeholders and students at Hugh Baird College to visit the facilities and look at what services are on offer. 

Our other two Life Rooms have been a tremendous success in establishing our roots in the communities we serve, offering service users, carers, members of the general public  and local businesses the opportunity to become part of a social hub. Recovery College courses, employment and enterprise hubs and literary and IT skills are just a few of the many services the Life Rooms offer in Walton and Southport.

In many ways, the latest addition is one of the most important developments Mersey Care has undertaken in my six years as Chief Executive of this Trust. There has rightly been a lot of focus on prevention of ill health, both mental and physical, and the Government has highlighted the need for social prescribing – exactly the service Life Rooms provides for our communities.

The Bootle version is perhaps the most ground-breaking of all the Life Rooms so far in that it will help young people and the students at Hugh Baird College. This will provide young people with real help to achieve emotional stability at a crucial time in their lives.

We need to stop just talking about young people’s health and actually focus on the whole package – that means really concentrating on their health and wellbeing and the Life Rooms will deliver that.

When we began thinking about the Life Rooms model it was always important to us to make them part of the community and that’s what we hope will happen in Bootle. It is an area of Liverpool that has long suffered from social and economic deprivation and we hope that students using the facilities will one day progress to become NHS professionals and reinvest into the community.

We want to make the people in the surrounding areas feel valued and welcome and help to improve their life chances, while helping to improve the mental health and wellbeing of staff, students and the community around Hugh Baird College.

There has been a lot of focus in recent years in both adult and young people’s mental health, which has often left those inbetween – like the students at Hugh Baird – between two stools. This new Life Rooms should address that.

We know that both mental and physical ill health can affect people of all ages, but for young people this can affect their educational progress and therefore impact on their life chances. At such a crucial time in their lives, the Life Rooms’ socially affirming model should help address that.

NHS 10 Year Plan

I wrote about the NHS 10 year plan last week and we are yet to learn about the full implications of how it will affect us at Mersey Care, but I thought it would be helpful to go through the areas that will interest this organisation in particular. What is clear is that integration (however you might describe this) remains high on the agenda and in this sense our work on bringing mental, physical, learning disability and addiction services all into a closer orbit, particularly with primary care, means we are well positioned in Mersey Care to contribute to our local health and care systems. The emphasis on digital access to services is also a big theme and Mersey Care, as one of a number of Global Digital Exemplars in Merseyside, is again in a good place to deliver on this. 

That both mental and physical health services are indicated to grow at a rate greater than the rest of the service is another significant indication. I have written often in these blogs about the need for funding uplifts in the sorts of services we provide. In headline terms much of the media focus since the plan’s publication last week has centred on mental health, which will benefit from £2.3 billion of extra funding by 2023/24 with particular emphasis on support teams in schools, crisis care, recovery and also on core prevention. So it may be that we will see a more coherent approach to investment than we have seen for a long time. But of course the ‘devil is in the detail’ and that will take some time to follow and I will keep you updated as more information emerges.

Some commentators have criticised the lack of detail in the plan but for me it is more important that it sets a general direction rather than describes swathes of implementation plans established in Whitehall without reference to our local context here in Merseyside. In particular it is important that the NHS doesn’t believe it can solve the problems we face in isolation from partnerships with other key agencies and fundamentally with the population in its many community guises. Notably the plan is short on the future of social care and public health, two cornerstones for any sustainable health and care system. 

You can find the plan here and I would recommend you take a look if you have a moment. A short summary is here https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/blog/2019/01/nhs-long-term-plan

MC Magazine

The winter edition of MC Magazine is now out digitally and printed copies should be with you in the next week or so.

There are interviews with dancer Emily Barker, the Self Esteem team, yoga trailblazer Claudia Mirallegro and doodler and animator Gary Andrews. You can access the magazine here.

Joe Rafferty

Chief Executive