Date published: 17 April 2024

Professor Joe Rafferty CBE is to retire on 31 October 2024 as Chief Executive Officer at Mersey Care having transformed the organisation into one of the largest and successful mental and community health trusts in the country during his 12 years in charge.

Since taking over as Chief Executive in 2012, Mersey Care has almost tripled in size through acquisitions while maintaining or growing its performance. The Trust has also been internationally recognised for its work in restorative just and learning practices,  suicide prevention and a leader in digital and data led innovation. Mr Rafferty’s retirement ends 34 years within the NHS, following an earlier career in cancer research.

Mersey Care will now undertake a robust recruitment process to identify Mr Rafferty’s successor, which will begin immediately. This involves engagement with various stakeholder panels representing external partners, service users and carers and staff prior to an interview with the Trust’s Chair, Non-Executive directors and external assessors. The preferred candidate will also be subject to a range of pre-employment checks and the Leadership Competency Framework for Board Members.

“Helping Mersey Care to evolve into the organisation it is today has been an absolute joy and one of the highlights of my working life, however it has been a lot of hard work for the whole team who have been brilliant to work alongside,” said Mr Rafferty.

“Although in a lot of ways I am sad to be leaving Mersey Care, I’m pleased to handover an organisation that is in good shape, with a talented and committed workforce and an Executive Group capable of leading it through the undoubtedly challenging times ahead. I feel the time is right for me to explore new opportunities and make way for others to lead Mersey Care through a period of consolidation.”

During Mr Rafferty’s time in charge, Mersey Care has transformed its estate by building Clock View Hospital, Rowan View Hospital, Hartley Hospital, Aspen Wood, renovating Leigh Moss Hospital and are currently working on building a state-of-the-art mental health hospital on the site of the former Mossley Hill Hospital, investing a total of circa £300 million.

Under his tenure he has also faced significant challenges like leadership of Cheshire & Merseyside out of hospital response to the COVID-19 pandemic, acquiring the former and troubled Liverpool Community Health, North West Boroughs Health Care NHS Foundation Trust, and acquisition and transfer of services at Calderstones Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. The bigger Mersey Care Trust still delivered an overall ‘good’ rating for the last inspection of the CQC, including ‘outstanding’ for caring and well led.

He is also a founder member of the Zero Suicide Alliance and was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the New Year’s Honours List 2020 for his work on suicide prevention. He became an honorary professor at the University of Liverpool Institute for Population Health Sciences the following year, followed by the award of the Bicentenary Fellowship at Liverpool John Moores University in 2023.

Mr Rafferty was key to establishing a partnership between Mersey Care and the University of Liverpool to create the Mental Health Research for Innovation Centre (M-RIC), a ground-breaking research facility based in Liverpool and funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research which aims to impact directly on NHS mental health services.  Mr Rafferty’s lasting impact and influence has also been further reflected by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) consistently naming him in their list of the Health Service’s top 50 CEOs over many years.

Mersey Care's chair, Rosie Cooper, said: "I've been fortunate enought to know and work with Joe a long time, going back to my days as the MP for West Lancashire. For as long as I've known him, and especially through his work here at Mersey Care, he's shown what a remarkable leader, innovator and strategic thinker he is, always striving for a better way of doing things which benefits patients, service users and carers.

“Mersey Care, like much of the NHS, has faced a lot of challenges in recent years; the COVID-19 pandemic, the independent review into Liverpool Community Health and the constant pressures on the health and care system. Throughout these difficult times, Joe has demonstrated his great knowledge and expertise, receiving widespread acclaim for his work in forging a path for Mersey Care. His presence and personality will be greatly missed within Mersey Care and the NHS Leadership community, and I wish him well in retirement.”