An image of Chief executive Joe Rafferty

Prof Joe Rafferty CBE, Chief Executive

Joe was appointed Chief Executive in September 2012. During his tenure, he has led a significant expansion of the organisation, almost trebling it in size. This has been accompanied by significant modernisation of the estate and digital infrastructure. The trust is now one of the largest specialised integrated care providers in the NHS and includes inpatient and community mental health, community physical health, and learning disability and addictions services.

At Mersey Care, he has organised the organisation around the idea of Pursuing Perfect Care using a series of audacious zero based goals such as zero suicides in care, zero restrictive practice, zero pressure ulcers and zero medication errors. Most notably, The trust has become internationally recognised for its work on restorative just practice to support learning in its pursuit of perfect care.

Awarded a Ph.D. in molecular genetics at Queen’s University Belfast in 1987, he spent the next 12 years researching drug resistance in cancer and published over 50 peer review articles on this and related areas, before a career change. Before joining the trust, he held a series of senior NHS leadership roles as regional director (NHS North West) of strategy and commissioning and chief executive of a primary care trust where he developed an interest in safety and quality improvement including establishing the influential Advancing Quality programme.

For the past five years, he has been named one of the top 50 NHS CEOs by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) and has appeared in the HSJ100 most influential people in healthcare in the UK. He is a founder member of the Zero Suicide Alliance UK and was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the New Year’s Honours List 2020 for his work on suicide prevention. Joe was also made an honorary professor at the University of Liverpool Institute for Population Health Sciences in March 2021.

You can follow Joe on Twitter: @JR_Merseycare

Qualifications: PhD in Genetics, BSc (Hons), Diploma in Health Services Management


Elaine Darbyshire, Executive Director of Communications, Participation and Estates

Elaine was appointed to the Trust in June 2013 from her previous role with NHS England where she was Director of NHS Communications for North, Midlands & East England. From 2011 to 2012 she was the Director of Communications for NHS North of England, covering the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber areas of England.

From 2009 to 2011, Elaine was the Director of Strategic Communications of NHS North West. Prior to joining the NHS in 2009, she worked for Guardian Media Group’s Regional Division for 22 years in a number of posts including Marketing Director, Communications and Public Affairs Director. She was a Non Executive Director at East Cheshire NHS Trust (2007 to 2009) and is currently a Trustee of Medcare, a small independent charity running a children’s health care service in Uganda.

You can follow Elaine on Twitter: @edarbyshire1

Qualifications: BSc Biology and Chemistry, Chartered Institute of Marketing post graduate diploma


An image of Dr Noir Thomas

Dr Noir Thomas, Executive Medical Director

Noir was appointed on 6 March 2020 and took up this post on 1 April 2020. Noir is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist. He obtained his primary medical degree from UWCM in 2000, Membership of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) in 2005 and completed higher specialist training in 2009. He retains a clinical caseload at Ashworth High Security Hospital, where he has been a practicing consultant since 2009. He is currently working towards completion of a Masters’ in Business Administration (MBA).

He has held clinical and educational supervisor roles for core and senior trainees alongside undergraduate medical students. He remains an appointed member to the Board of Examiners for the RCPsych membership examinations.

Noir has held a number of leadership and management roles across the trust since 2011. Most recently, as Associate Medical Director and Responsible Officer leading on medical appraisal, revalidation and professional standards. He is a trained case manager and investigator for the Revalidation Support team alongside PPAS. He has trained as Caldicott Guardian. Since late 2019, Dr Thomas held the role of Interim Medical Director for Operations prior to be appointed as Executive Medical Director.

Qualifications: MBBCh (UWCM, 2000), MRCPsych (2005), MSc (UCLan, 2011).


An image of executive director of finance Neil Smith

Neil Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of Non Clinical Services

Appointed September 2004, Neil assumed the Deputy Chief Executive portfolio in 2013. Neil was previously the Executive Director of Finance and Performance, Mersey Care NHS Trust (2004-2022).

He was a Regional Finance Trainee (1985-1989) and his previous roles have been Senior Finance Manager roles in acute and community hospitals (1989-1992), Chief Financial Planner at Liverpool Health Authority (1992-1995), Deputy Director of Finance at Sefton Health Authority (1995-2000), Director of Finance at Sefton Health Authority (2000-2001), National Finance Lead High Secure Services at the Department of Health (2001-2002) and Head of Finance and Performance Management at Ashton, Leigh and Wigan PCT (2002-2004).

Qualifications: BA (Hons), Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Qualified Accountant.


Amanda Oates, Executive Director of Workforce

Amanda was appointed in August 2013, initially as a non voting member of the Board, prior to her appointment in January 2015 as Executive Director of Workforce. She joined the NHS in 1998 from a private sector Graduate Trainee Scheme.

She has previous experience as HR Director at two other NHS trusts and as board director since 2008. Since joining Mersey Care NHS FT she has transformed the way the trust delivers its workforce function and has received endorsement from the highest levels in her profession most recently leading her team to win the Organisational Development Team of the year in 2019, Workforce Well Being in 2018, Best Learning and Development Award from the CIPD in 2018. That same year the trust won the National SPF Award for Partnership Working for the implementation of the Just and Learning Culture at the HPMA Awards. Amanda also won the HPMA Human Director of the year in 2018. In 2016, she led the team to win the CIPD Award for Best Improved HR capability at the HPMA awards.


Amanda has also supported a number of national publications on Just Culture and has worked in partnership with Northumbria University to develop and deliver an accredited transforming culture programme about restorative Just Culture in action. She joined the NHS in 1998 from the private sector as a Graduate Trainee.

In 2020 the trust won the Public category in the Business Culture Awards 2020 for their civility and respect campaign.

You can follow Amanda on Twitter: @amandajoyoates

Qualifications: BA (hons), MSc Strategic HRD, F.C.I.P.D


An image of executive director of nursing and operations Trish Bennet

Trish Bennett, Executive Director of Nursing and Operations and Deputy Chief Executive of Clinical Services

Trish took up post on 1 March 2018 first as Executive Director of Nursing, prior to assuming responsibility as Executive Director of Nursing & Operations from 1 April 2018. Prior to this Trish was the Director of Integration with the Trust, a non-voting position on the Board.

Trish has worked in the NHS for over 30 years in various nursing leadership positions in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester in both provider and commissioning roles and joined Mersey Care from NHS England, were she was the Director of Nursing for the Lancashire & Greater Manchester Sub Region responsible for professional nurse leadership and quality and assurance and clinical leadership input into transformation service change programmes. Trish has a passion for ensuring that care is delivered to the highest quality and that the patients and their family are at the centre of care.

You can follow Trish on Twitter: @Trishbennett15

Qualifications: RGN, BA Health Studies


An image of director of strategy Louise Edwards

Louise Edwards, Executive Director of Strategy

Louise was appointed in November 2012 and was made a non-voting member of the Board from 1 September 2015. She was made an Executive Director on 29 July 2020.

She is an experienced Board level strategist and leader who has a track record of achievement in leading change in both NHS commissioning and provider organisations, policy development, and service improvement across the public sector. She has extensive experience at both strategic and operational levels in the NHS, having had Board level roles in primary care trusts and NHS trusts with responsibility for strategy and planning, organisational development, communications, patient and public involvement and partnership development. Louise has also worked on strategy and commissioning development for strategic health authorities, and on commissioning assurance for the NHS Commissioning Board (now NHS England).

Prior to joining the NHS in 2005, Louise had leadership roles in the not-for-profit sector and was an academic at Manchester University. This varied experience across health, social care and government has enabled her to develop a strong network and deep insight into strategic change in the health service, in national government and local government, and health care improvement in partnership with other sectors.

Qualifications: BA Hons Combined Studies (Arts), Manchester Univ.; MPhil History; PhD History


Rob Collins, Director of Finance at Mersey Care

Rob Collins, Executive Director of Finance

Rob Collins was appointed as Executive Director of Finance in July 2022.  In 1999, Rob joined the NHS and has previously worked at Wirral and West Cheshire Community NHS Trust and Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust where he qualified as a chartered accountant with the Chartered Institute for Management Accounts.

He has worked in various senior finance roles within Trusts across the Cheshire and Merseyside region, and took up the role as Deputy Director of Finance at the former Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust in 2013.

Rob played a key role in the successful improvement journey for services at Liverpool Community Health Trust, and transferred to Mersey Care in 2018 as part of the acquisition process where he has worked as the Chief Finance Officer.

Qualifications, Chartered Accountant, Chartered Institute for Management Accounts.


Chris Lyons, Director of Strategic Programmes (non voting)

Chris was appointed to this new role in June 2021, although he first joined Mersey Care in January 2016. 

During his time with the Trust, Chris has provided the programme leadership for a number of significant acquisitions and strategic programmes. His role is to lead and deliver on significant strategic and organisational wide change within the trust.  He is also a member of the Executive Team.

He began his career as a NHS General Management Trainee in Northern Ireland (1992–1994) and subsequently went on to hold a number of accountable officer and director positions across healthcare, local government and the university sector in both the UK and Ireland. Throughout his career, Chris has led on a number of significant strategic change programmes including spending three years overseeing a major reconfiguration of five hospital sites on the east coast of Ireland and more recently as the Programme Director responsible for the operational planning and commissioning of the new Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in 2014-2015.

Qualifications: BSc (Hons) Economics, MSc Health Economics, MSc Health and Social Services Management.