Date published: 1 July 2022

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Those of you who follow Mersey Care’s news will know we’re an organisation which has always placed a high priority on providing the right physical environments to allow staff room to innovate and for patients to thrive and have the best chance of recovery.

In the next couple of years, we hope to add two state of the art buildings to our impressive portfolio of new hospitals. By 2024 our new Low Secure Hospital, which will be known as Aspen Wood, will join Rowan View and Ashworth Hospital at Maghull Health Park and another mental health hospital will be built on the grounds of the old Mossley Hill Hospital.

This continues a commitment to providing the best possible facilities for our population, which began in one of my very first meetings after I joined the Trust with our chairman, Beatrice Fraenkel. From day one she was very clear that she wanted a new mental health hospital for the people of Liverpool, which would combine a therapeutic environment with cutting edge design and ensure we moved away from the old style of run down buildings that had often been associated with mental health until then.

Prior to Clock View Hospital being opened in 2015, mental health inpatient units were often places where people’s freedom were taken away and were often dark and unwelcoming places. With the help of Beatrice, and in particular her Design Champions’ Group who combined service user experience with architectural and clinical expertise, we built a hospital that was more akin in physical characteristics to a pleasant and welcoming Mediterranean hotel.

As you’ll see from the diagram below, Clock View was the start of a continuous journey at the Trust to radically improve our estate that continues to this day. So why do we need to keep updating our estate, why have we placed such a high priority on doing so and how did we achieve so much in such a short space of time?


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Much of the credit for all this must go to our expert estates team, led by Joanne Worswick, our Associate Director of Strategic Estates Planning and Michele McGee, Associate Director of Estates and Facilities who lead our estates and facilities teams here at Mersey Care. It was all ably masterminded by Elaine Darbyshire, our Executive Director of Estates, Governance and Communications, from the Board’s perspective. They all provide the expert leadership required to develop an idea quickly and professionally, and then bring these plans to life through all the design and planning processes required to build these state of the art hospitals.

There are many more experts and committed professionals within that team that deserve a mention, and their recognition is not limited to their work being highlighted here in this blog. Ever since Clock View was opened in 2015, each one of our new hospitals have won their fair share of awards, most recently our medium secure hospital Rowan View, which won four different awards at the recent Design in Mental Health Awards.

Going back to my earlier question about why we’ve done this, let me put it another way – why wouldn’t we? Don’t those we care for in the places we work in deserve some of the best facilities in the country? It’s easy to fall into a trap of looking at the major hospitals in London and just accepting it won’t happen here, well with the hard work of the trust’s estates experts we’ve changed that perception.

When I first joined Mersey Care there was a lot of talk about fighting for parity of esteem between the facilities expected in physical health care and those experienced by those using mental health services. By concentrating on providing high class facilities, using cutting edge design and ensuring our inpatients feel safe and valued we’re addressing that.

Good design costs no more than bad design. There’s a culture within the NHS to provide repeatable bedrooms that look identical, partly because it’s always been done and because it’s the most cost effective solution, but we don’t do that. We try and personalise and we try and make these rooms about the person that’s staying there for however short or extended their stay with us may be. We try and give them opportunities to bring themselves to their care because that’s all part of you owning a part of your own care and treatment plan.

A number of our mental health patients may be with us for much longer than the average time, so by looking at how we care for them, we give them back their dignity and we treat them with respect. We always focus on de-stigmatising the way mental health is regarded and we provide them with the most therapeutic environment to give them the best chance possible for recovery.

We do this by looking at how bedrooms are made and personalising them, by focussing on art installations like that in the stunning entrance at Rowan View (see below) that changes colour depending on the light. We build that quality into everything we do, by pushing the boundaries to innovate.

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Indeed, once our planned new hospital is opened on the former site of Mossley Hill in Liverpool in 2024, it will mark a seminal change in Mersey Care’s history because it will end the use of dormitory accommodation across the organisation. It’s an important moment because it says to anyone in our care that their health is not a commodity or a contractual process. It’s part of their lives and shapes and supports how we deliver the very best care, and in that process, supporting more people to a life beyond care.

I’ve been Chief Executive at Mersey Care for around a decade now and there’s been a lot of change in that time, with much of it packed into the last five years. You can’t achieve that without a great strategy and a deliverable plan.

The diagram below gives an illustration of just how quickly Mersey Care has changed over those five years, with the acquisitions of Liverpool Community Health, Calderstones and North West Boroughs Healthcare, which has transformed Mersey Care into one of the biggest community and mental health Trusts in the country.

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The idea of strategy is not about what you want to happen it’s about the realistic business of understanding different pressures and systems and working out how best to manage through these to maximum benefit for patient outcome. To put that into context, when North West Boroughs became part of Mersey Care in June last year it meant the Trust now has 171 different sites spread across the North West.

The next stage of our Estates strategy, first developed in 2019, will be to develop first class accommodation for everyone within our inpatient facilities and work with partners to ensure integrated care for community services.

This will incorporate our plans to become a zero carbon organisation by 2040 by ensuring our buildings reflect the needs of the people who use our services. Our estate will create an environment where our staff want to learn, develop and work and will support agreed partnership pathways across the health economy and community.

It's ambitious but no more so than when I first arrived and we decided to challenge the old mental health hospitals design, give our patients a say in their environment, and look to push the boundaries. Who knows what the next 10 years may bring? I hope you look forward to playing a part in shaping it.

Thank you for all your hard work and dedication

Prof Joe Rafferty CBE

Chief Executive (He/His/Him)