It’s been a demanding and arduous few months for us all, so I thought I’d start this week’s blog with some overdue good news as we start to begin the phased return of our services from the coronavirus pandemic. I’m sure we’ve all felt the impact of trying to deal with the effects of the crisis, how we’ve all struggled at times and how we’ve had to adapt to provide care for our patients, service users and carers. Moreover, we have all had to adapt too, as citizens living through a pandemic.
One of those services that has recently returned to work is our vaccinations and immunisation team, who have excelled themselves in immunising over 1,000 children in the first week of being fully operational again, despite social distancing restrictions. I’m told the children came from 13 schools and everyone involved, including the immunisers, the school health team and the medicines distribution team should be proud of their efforts.
Part of my week has included visits to wards at Clock View Hospital and Ashworth Hospital, where I heard more stories of staff and patient co-operation during a difficult period and I can’t thank you all enough for your efforts recently. There are plenty more examples of the outstanding care you all deliver and I’m delighted some of them have been captured in the summer edition of MC Magazine.
Copies are being sent out in the next week or so, but you can also access it online here. It includes features on how our community nurses are keeping people out of hospital, the sexual health team helping the sex workers during the pandemic, and how being anxious about returning to normal following the lockdown restrictions is perfectly normal.
Part of the process of moving forward from this pandemic has been to understand and learn the lessons from what happened in the first wave as lots of transmission occurs in health or care facilities. We know inequalities are heightened during this phase and unlocking restrictions presents new challenges of keeping the public safe, providing for people's social needs while also addressing issues of economics.
It’s estimated that around one million more people will face poverty by the end of this year and the number of children in poverty will increase by five per cent. Given what we know about mental health and long term conditions, that means a long term impact on the services we provide.
We could potentially be living the consequences of this for the next decade, while unemployment is predicted to reach around 10 per cent in the final quarter of this year - another astonishing figure. We already know unemployment is one of the major factors in poverty, which is one of the main causes of the issues I've identified as affecting us and what we do.
The predicted economic downturn will have significant health impacts in the short and long terms. Access to health services for people with pre-existing conditions was about 20 per cent lower on aggregate during the Covid period, so we have a residual of illness, both mental and physical, in our communities as it stands.
Locally there’s been a 61.4 per cent increase in young people (18 to 24) claiming out of work benefits and these figures are almost always reflected in the demand for mental health services and, ultimately, for services that deal with long term conditions. In Liverpool itself, there was almost a 33 per cent increased fatality for Covid against a national average of 27 per cent - chilling figures. Inequality is one reason people die from Covid and our mortality rate is more than double in deprived areas.
In Cheshire and Merseyside we saw a massive drop in two-week referrals for cancer, and we saw a complete disruption to non-urgent elective care. That will continue to be a problem and will plateau for a long time. Long term conditions' care has dropped and that exposes us to a very rough ride if a second wave or second pandemic occurs.
For us, much of the effects of Covid are yet to come. The issues that particularly affect this Trust are in later waves so we have to plan today and in the months ahead, as well as increases over the next few years. And, as I always say, the innovation in Mersey Care comes from and is owned by the frontline, so let us have your thoughts on how we can continue to adapt and adopt to living with COVID-19 as we move forward.
BAME staff support
I wrote to staff last week about our commitment to support and deliver for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff and all forms of discrimination. This is not something we have to do but something we want to do so all colleagues unequivocally understand they belong to and are included partners in the Mersey Care family; our Board genuinely cares about making this happen.
This is especially important as it’s increasingly clear COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on our BAME, older, male and disabled patients, friends and colleagues.
We’ve had ongoing engagement with BAME colleagues and introduced several measures we hope will help in keeping people physically and psychologically safe. Our aim is to assure a culture of continued dialogue and authentic and sustainable support to help make sure that outcome, intervention and protection measures are real, relevant and based on personal circumstances.
In summary, stay safe and positive and I look forward to chatting with as many of you as possible as I get back out into services to listen to patient and staff views.
Chief Executive CBE