Date published: 20 January 2023

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It’s traditional at the start of a new year to look forward to the challenges ahead and the major milestones, as an organisation, we’re expecting in 2023. I’m not going to do that in my first blog of the year simply because sometimes it’s important to address health issues if they start to dominate the national news agenda.

You’ll all have seen that headline after headline is focussing on the growing demand on NHS services, the queues for urgent or emergency care and waiting lists for operations. Just in the last few days there’s been the following articles to read on the NHS crisis:

All the above articles, and many more besides, naturally focus on operations, hospital beds and the acute sector in general. That’s not to diminish all the good work Trusts like ourselves do in mental and community care, but the focus has definitely been on the impact on the acute sector and how that might affect the general public.

I’d like to redress the balance in this blog and write about some of the outstanding work that’s been delivered despite the increasing demand on our services. We’ve been collating data from the last few months, so it gives a realistic view of the pressures we’ve been under, and the incredible dedication of our workforce to ensure services provide the care required for our many and diverse communities.

These figures are accurate up to 3 January 2023 and take into account the festive period, showing there is plenty of demand elsewhere in the NHS system in addition to the pressures on acute hospitals. Our own version of queues for ambulances and operations is the significant and continuing demand for our community and mental health services.

In the image below you can see just how busy many of our services were during the festive period and how brilliantly our workforce has coped and met the demands. For instance, you’ll see the average triage time for those attending our Walk In Centres was just over half an hour despite averaging over 700 attendances a day.

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Over 80 percent of people who attended were out of the Walk In Centre within four hours, which is an absolutely amazing illustration of the commitment, dedication and incredible skill of our colleagues who work there.

Longmoor House, where we provide rehabilitation, support and care for people who have been in hospital and require additional support before they can return to their home, has been similarly impressive with admissions up by a third.

Over at our Integrated Community Reablement and Assessment Service (ICRAS), a 24-hour service which includes medics, pharmacists and different therapy staff and helps prevent hospital admission and aids patients’ return to the community, they discharged up to three times as many patients than average and their caseload increased by 18 percent.

All these figures are impressive in their own right, but are equally crucial in helping to relieve the pressure on the system. All those patients that have been cared for at our Walk In Centres, Longmoor House, ICRAS or our two-hour urgent care response or any one of our many other services are not going to an A&E department or sitting in a hospital waiting room.

We also offer services for those in recovery with a different classes and information about housing, finance, lifestyle and exercise at the Life Rooms which is all part of our commitment to supporting self care and prevention in our services. All this outstanding work follows the NHS Long Term Plan, which outlines a desire for more patients to be treated in community settings.

Of course, we also must be very careful about looking after our workforce. The demand we’ve seen over the festive period and continue to meet in the new year will have its impact on colleagues. Mersey Care has a wide range of Health and Wellbeing offers and we know that was accessed over 3,000 times in the last month.

We’ve also been proactive about tackling the recruitment issues which are affecting the NHS nationally. We launched our own campaign last year, ‘Spread Your Wings,’ which you can access via our ‘Working for Us’ page on the website and on our social media channels. In the last quarter over 50,000 people have accessed our current vacancies page, many of which are now in the recruitment process and will become part of our Mersey Care family.

Finally, we’re aware our workforce has had to deal with a lot over the last few months and we’re planning to refresh our Restorative Just and Learning Culture initiative this year. There’s a real temptation to think the NHS is just about ambulances and beds, but it’s all about achieving extraordinary things for our patients and service users.

NHS staff work within the population and the people who provide services to all our communities are also part of that. They all live, breathe and commute within our society and they are the both the most importance resource the NHS has and the backbone of every service that is provided both within our region and nationally.

Here at Mersey Care we’re committed to psychological safety within our organisation and looking after our people. That’s not just their health and wellbeing but their mental health and their psychological safety is absolutely critical particularly during this period when demands on the system are so great.

Thanks again for all your hard work and dedication

Prof Joe Rafferty CBE

Chief Executive