Publish date: 2 August 2021

It was quite a week for Mersey Care in so many positive ways. After meeting the Princess Royal, we were joined this week by the Chief Nursing Officer of England, Ruth May, who joined us for a special ceremony alongside Deputy Chief Nurses Prof Mark Radford and Duncan Burton.

Ruth May’s visit was to reward six of our excellent colleagues for their outstanding efforts during COVID-19. The prestigious Chief Nursing Officer’s Awards recognise that highly skilled profession and it was a proud moment to see our winners and teams applauded by such a positive, down-to-earth and passionate leader. As Ruth said: “You’re a credit to the nursing profession”.

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Our own Deputy Director of Nursing, Jenny Hurst, was recognised for her exceptional leadership during the pandemic. Five other members of Mersey Care’s nursing staff were also recipients: Chen Shoko, a senior clinical nurse in secure forensic mental health, was recognised for assuring robust processes for the recruitment, induction, and support of nurses in secure services.

Leah Angus, David Young and Anthony Rimmer, members of our hospital at night team, received a team award for supporting the mental health inpatient wards and Tinashe Baku was recognised as our community lead for infection control, ensuring staff had the right training and PPE.

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We’re extremely proud of each winner. They’ve all demonstrated exceptional leadership and support for their colleagues through the pandemic and beyond.

The ceremony followed quickly after the official opening of Hartley Hospital and the warm response the Princess Royal had to our state-of-the-art Southport site.

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For those who haven’t seen it, here’s footage from the day and I’d like to thank everyone involved in making the day a success, which included national media coverage and lots of smiles.

 

It's been a very busy week in health circles with the Chief Nurse’s visit coming just a day after we heard about the new leadership at the top of the NHS. I warmly welcome news that the current Chief Operating Officer of NHS England and Improvement, Amanda Pritchard, will become the new Chief Executive of NHS England and I note her interest in mental health and supporting staff.

 

We also had a guest at this week’s meeting of the Trust’s Board of Directors. It was a pleasure to welcome – virtually – the Care Quality Commission’s Inspector of Mental Health, Anthony Cliffe. He was very positive about our plans and in particular our restorative justice work.

 

The Board is a crucial part of Trust business. We had the opportunity to review and approve some essential documentation: Mersey Care’s Annual Report for 2020/21, Mersey Care’s Annual Accounts for 2020/21 and our Letter of Representation. Board also noted the draft Quality Report for 2020/21. In line with their statutory duties at their 21 July meeting, our Council of Governors also approved an extension in Beatrice Fraenkel’s term of office as Chairman for a period of no more than six months to 31 October 2022.

We noted that NHSE/I provided the Grant of Acquisition to Mersey Care on 27 May 2021 which allowed us to acquire North West Boroughs Healthcare (NWBH) on 1 June and formally dissolved them as a separate legal entity. From day one of the acquisition, we made sure the executive safety huddle encompassed the enlarged organisation, supported by a single quality review process and the requirement for all Mersey Care teams to develop their team canvas. From 1 July we’ve ensured that our four-step restorative just and learning process has been adopted.

Following a full review with specialist support, investment has been agreed to focus on the IM&T infrastructure alignment over the next 18 months which will allow the Trust to significantly reduce the number of legacy clinical systems we’ve acquired through recent expansions. We’ll be moving to a single instance of RiO across the new footprint, reducing risks in terms of patient safety and supporting staff to do their jobs more effectively.

The Board also discussed staff wellbeing. We’re very aware of the impact COVID-19 has had on staff health. COOs and colleagues tell me staff are brilliant but tired. I hear that clearly. We’ve put in extra interventions to support staff to remain well in work or facilitate a timely return.

Some staff have experienced COVID directly and may have ongoing psychological and physical symptoms as a result, others have experienced the loss or suffering of family members, colleagues, and friends. Some have been asked to work different hours or in a different role to meet patient demand. We get this.

The risk assessment process, health and wellbeing conversations and supervisions, mean we’ve been able to identify needs and offer interventions such as care spaces, resilience support, the Trust specialist occupational health and staff support services, the Cheshire and Merseyside Resilience Hub (which we host), or financial and bereavement support.

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And we want to continue helping and listening. Thank you to everyone who’s contributed to our Mega Conversations. We’ll expand them to include our members, service users, carers and the communities we serve, with a clear process so we’ll hear from former NWBH public members as they come over to us.

The Board recorded its thanks to a retiring member of the Trust. It’s with regret, after 37 years with Mersey Care and its predecessors, that I announce the retirement of Mandi Gregory. She has been Staff Side Chair since 2009 and I’d like to thank her for her insight, thoughtfulness and yes, at times, challenge.

Another retiree is Steve Murphy, who has led some massive developments as Head of Communications and Marketing, in how we promote ourselves and keep informed. I’m very grateful for his innovative approaches as a major figure in the Zero Suicide Alliance. Steve will be back part time on some special projects this autumn. I warmly wish his successor, Rachel Robinson, my very best as she takes on the Trust’s communications leadership today.

As a leader, I always want staff to deliver their best and I’m eager to encourage success. I think that’s right and proportional. What we saw at the Olympics last week were some people challenging mental health being used as an “excuse” for poor performance. It’s right to be disappointed when we fall short of where we want to be. It’s right to be (to borrow football terminology) “gutted” when our team or player misses or doesn’t get the medal.

Passion is what watching sport is all about. But those comments about Olympians were irresponsible. To damn those who cite their mental health when things don’t go as expected only means more people feel they must struggle on silently. We know the cost of that. Let’s be good sports about our sportsmen and women.

Prof Joe Rafferty CBE

Chief Executive