It’s not often I start my weekly blog with warnings about the weather, but this week I’m making an exception because the Met Office have issued a Level 3 weather alert for our region. They are predicting a 90 per cent risk of cold temperatures with significant wind chill, some snow showers are likely most days and significant snow is forecast for Sunday afternoon. While I’m sure most of us can appreciate a lovely wintery scene in the build-up to Christmas, snow and ice does present us with issues for service users, staff and the NHS system in the area generally. It has to be said that at this stage we don’t anticipate any disruption to our own services but it could affect service users attending appointments or on leave, community patients and all vulnerable people on their own. Staff can be also be affected with possible school closures presenting childcare problems, traffic issues making commuting to work difficult while just the walk to the car can be hazardous in such conditions. Can we all please take time to stay safe and warm and place particular emphasis on ensuring those we care for are looked after during this cold spell. There is some useful advice on NHS Choices that I would urge you all to read while there is a page on the Mersey Care website offering advice on how to beat the winter blues.
As winter weather threatens this weekend, it is more important than ever that as many of you as possible get your flu jab to protect yourselves, your colleagues and loved ones from such a deadly disease. Regular readers of my blog will know that I have been banging this particular drum for some time, particularly in response to some negative media coverage regarding a particularly strong strain of the virus affecting Australia and New Zealand. The best way of preventing that happening here at Mersey Care is for everyone to get their flu jab, which has been underlined by a letter sent out by senior figures within the NHS, including Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the National Medical Director at NHS England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer and Professor Jane Cummings, the Chief Nursing Officer for England. Their letter, which says that flu can have serious and even fatal consequences, can be read in full here, while those of you interested in the latest evidence, published in September of this year, can read it here.
Congratulations to Ashworth Hospital for receiving a rating of ‘Green, Substantial Compliance’ in their annual audit of Safety and Security Directions Audit for High Secure Services. Their rating is the highest that can be awarded under the new audit process and everyone at Ashworth should be very proud of their achievement. Ratings like that do not happen by accident and takes a lot of hard work despite caring for some of the most challenging patients in the NHS system.
I attended the Positive Practice in Learning Disabilities event at Whalley last week, when guests and experts from trusts across the country spoke about how changes in service delivery are improving lives for their service users. I was proud to hear our own homegrown successes from Specialist LD, where we are now ‘outstanding’ and the therapies, restrain reduction and community links are a real symbol of excellence. It was moving to listen to the service user experience directly and Iris Benson’s powerful tale is one that is important to hear. My thanks to guests, and to organiser Fran Cairns, Whalley’s operational manager, who is also the lead for the Learning Disabilities Specialist Interest Group with the Positive Practice in Mental Health Collaborative.
This week, the collaborative leadership forum met at Aintree, which is a really valuable few hours spent with senior managers across the Trust. I spoke about our Zero Suicide Alliance and how we were able to use the power of social media to reach millions of people with a message of hope and advice about challenging perceptions that any level of suicide is acceptable.
I’m meeting the Secretary of State again next week to update him on our work. I also spoke about the future – and how the NHS must look ahead to stronger partnerships with the social care sector, other providers and beyond, thinking about what can be supplied locally for people and what must practically be delivered as a region, such as secure forensic services. While I’m on the subject, have you taken the training yet? If not, please do so – it will only take 20 minutes and could save someone’s life.
The leadership forum also gave a lot of time, quite rightly, to showing how we’re delivering a Just and Learning Culture: the real progress in reducing disciplinaries and suspensions by supporting people better if things don’t go to plan, the new way to ask ‘what went wrong’ rather than ‘who caused this?’.
Most of you will know that earlier this year, Mersey Care won £5 million of central NHS funding to accelerate our ambition to digitally transform our services. We are now looking at a number of projects but I thought it might be useful for you all to see a film that has recently been produced on our global digital exemplar programme asking 'Can digital solutions transform mental health services?'.
The first phase of due diligence work has now been completed across five different workstreams, and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved both in Mersey Care and LCH; it’s been a terrific piece of work in a very short space of time. The next phase is for Mersey Care to produce a full business case to be presented to our Performance, Investment and Finance Committee on 15 December before submission to NHS Improvement before Christmas. We will then move into the next phase of the transaction in the new year and I will provide further information in due course.