Publish date: 17 May 2021

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Mersey Care has a history of fighting stigma and injustice by the way we instil our values into our organisation and the services we provide. That’s particularly relevant today (May 17), which is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT).

The topic of refusing to tolerate intolerance is one I continue to address but today’s message should stand on its own – after all it was only 1990 when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. It’s shocking that it took until then for that decision to be made.

I need hardly remind you we’re still far from a place where the stigma and discrimination faced by those who identify as LGBTQ+ is also confined to history. At least 70 countries still deem same sex acts illegal with a death penalty in at least six nations. By comparison, 29 recognise same sex marriages. Let’s make IDAHOBIT day one where we continue to empower equality and support it through the work of our colleagues.

A video focussing on the work of our sexual health outreach team is above and they’re available on 0151 247 6560. I’m also delighted Mersey Care have recently launched a new specialist gender incongruence service CMAGIC, which works on improving  the provision for transgender and non binary patients. The service brings together clinicians, community groups, and NHS services to provide a community-based approach that supports people who are exploring their gender. 

Thanking our nurses

We had a brilliant international nurses’ day last week. It’s held annually on Florence Nightingale’s birthday and I often wonder what that hero of the Crimean War would have made of the diversity of talent, breadth of knowledge and embracing of technology that our modern nurses deal with each day.

To mark the day we held an online event attended by the Chief Nursing Officer for England, Ruth May, and Marie Boles, Cheshire and Mersey’s Director of Nursing. It was also great our Chairman, Beatrice Fraenkel, and I were able to meet you all virtually and thank you for all the hard work over the last year of the COVID-19 pandemic. As someone who comes from a family of nurses, I know only too well that the work never stops.

The passion for patient focussed care came across at the event, while Trish Bennett, our Director of Nursing, spoke about how time had flown for many of you when you’re making such a positive difference during challenging times. I was also delighted the excellent Special Schools Nursing Team was able to accept their team of the month award at the event.

It's disappointing that current restrictions prevented us all meeting in person but that didn’t stop some of you bringing along tasty looking treats, including a massive cake from the discharge team. Once again, my appreciation goes out to all those who helped organise the event and all our Mersey Care nurses – it was great to see you celebrating and gaining strength from each other.

Birthday greetings

For those coming into Mersey Care, I’d like to highlight the work of our Life Rooms. I know from the sessions with our colleagues at North West Boroughs Healthcare that people are asking “when can we have one?”. For those who don’t know, in non-COVID times, the Life Rooms offered a safe and welcoming space to meet people and access learning opportunities. Situated in recognisable locations across Merseyside, the public could drop in during the day for a brew, take courses and develop skills. The team quickly moved online last year during the pandemic with a brilliant range of video sessions and they’re now looking into safely re-opening.

Once again Florence Nightingale was a leader in this field. Her own data studies were some of the first to identify risks and reveal where to target care resources, a trailblazer in what we now call social health and wellbeing.

Working in our communities to join up physical and mental health is what we’re all about. Life Rooms have taken this message directly to people, providing the kind of social prescribing and research that help to reduce people’s risks, enhance people’s opportunities and changes their lives.

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Last week they celebrated five years since the first Life Rooms opened its doors in Walton. Aptly, the birthday fell during mental health awareness week and I’d like to add my congratulations to them as well as a reminder to all that their service continues to be accessible and available.

Stay COVID-19 aware

Many of you will have heard about Variants of Concern (VOC) in relation to COVID-19 with the so called ‘Indian VOC’ present on Merseyside. I’d like us all to step up awareness on all our infection prevention and control procedures. You all still have access to lateral flow testing and it’s more important than ever to keep self-testing as this VOC seems to spread faster. We saw the impact of the Kent variant and the large peak in hospitalisation and ill health that followed just before Christmas.

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The message so far is the Indian VOC is unlikely to bypass the protection of vaccination, but I can’t stress enough how important it is for as many people as possible to get protected. If you haven’t yet taken up the vaccine offer, please do so now.

Have a good week and stay safe.

Prof Joe Rafferty CBE

Chief Executive