It is not every day I open my computer to see an email waiting for me from the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP. As Chief Executive of a leading mental health trust, I am used to receiving messages from Government officials but I still opened the email with great trepidation.
The Minister had written to me explaining how pleased he was with the findings of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report into our services and, in particular, the good rating we received for our high secure services. He particularly noted Ashworth’s good rating for safety, efficiency and leadership.
This is particularly encouraging considering the type of care we provide in high secure services, which is some of the most challenging in the healthcare system. The email should reflect particularly well on everyone who works there presently and has done in recent years.
The Minister also highlighted the way we share best practice among the two other high secure hospitals in the country. Because of the unique nature of high secure hospitals – although they come under the NHS umbrella, the Secretary of State has line of sight on them all because of the complex nature of the patients we care for – it’s important the success of initiatives like No Force First are shared among us all.
Ashworth, of course, was not the only part of the Trust that received praise for its efforts in the CQC report. Our Specialist Learning Disability Division has made great strides from a difficult and challenging report under the CQC pilot inspection scheme to their current rating of ‘Outstanding’ in just three years, which is an incredible achievement.
Those of you who have worked at the Trust for a length of time will know that Ashworth has travelled a similar journey. It has been subject of a far reaching enquiry into its management and it is not too big a stretch to say that for many years it was held up as an example of the negativity surrounding mental health care.
That seems a long way away now when you visit both Whalley and Ashworth. In both cases the staff are welcoming, confident and knowledgeable in their roles and committed to raising standards of care.
Importantly, staff at both venues are not complacent. They know that to do so would only mean a step backwards and they are fine examples – of which there are many throughout the organisation – of staff working to improve with strong clinical and organisational values, the caring experience for service users, carers and staff.
For those of you who didn’t see yesterday’s news, Mersey Care has been given planning permission by Sefton Council’s planning committee to build a new mental health facility at the existing Boothroyd mental health unit in Southport.
This is important news for the Trust and our commitment to upgrading our estate and facilities so our patients, service users, carers and staff have the best possible environment to recover and go about their daily duties.
The new hospital will combine local mental health inpatient care and some related community services all on the same site and will provide 44 single en suite bedrooms. They will replace the Hesketh Centre, which will close once the new facility is built.
More information on this project can be found here and I will update you on the Southport development and our plans to develop another new mental health hospital on the site of Mossley Hill Hospital as and when the information becomes available.