Publish date: 13 January 2022

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As this is my first blog of 2022, I’d like to start by wishing everyone a belated ‘Happy New Year.’ I know the last 12 months have been extremely tough and I’d once again like to thank everyone for all their efforts during the toughest of times.

Since the turn of the year, we’ve stepped up our planning to combat the Omicron variant of the virus, which we know has caused COVID-19 rates to rise and led to many staff being absent either because they have the illness or they are forced to isolate. We know this is causing a strain on many of our services and we’re doing everything possible to support those working on the frontline or at home to ensure our services and patients remain safe.

I’d like to be able to write a reassuring message to you all but, in truth, none of us know what to expect in the months ahead before we can settle back into some sort of normality again. The only thing I can guarantee is that Mersey Care remains committed to keeping our patients, service users, carers and staff healthy and safe and please can I urge you all once again to make sure you’re protected by getting your vaccinations.

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I know many of you who are reading this have made incredible sacrifices to help others, whether its frontline staff spending time away from their families so they can care for others, or those of you at home working to help minimise the spread, each and every one of you is making a major contribution in our fight against the virus.

I’d like this first blog of 2022 to focus on your incredible achievements despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges that has presented. We’ve welcomed new additions to our Mersey Care family, colleagues from the former North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Southport and Formby Community Services who have brought new skills, knowledge and ideas to complement our offer to communities.

There’s been some amazing progress across the divisions, with work having started on our new Low Secure Unit at Maghull Health Park. We hope this will be operational by Autumn 2023 and will add to our growing collection of state of the art buildings. Hartley Hospital, our mental health inpatient facility in Southport, was also officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal.

Hartley Hospital was one of many achievements within Local Division, which include establishing our crisis lines services that has now had over 50,000 calls in the last 20 months, reducing inappropriate out of area beds to zero in 2021 and our triage car we provide in partnership with North West Ambulance Service featuring in an emotional episode of the BBC Ambulance programme.

I know you’re all busy but I’d like to share an animated presentation (see below) by Donna Robinson, our Chief Operating Officer, who outlines the challenges faced within Local Division over the last year and how they’ve addressed them – it’s really good and worth a watch.

 

Our Community Division successfully reopened Stoddart House, one of our former mental health units, as Longmoor House, in partnership with Liverpool University Hospitals’ NHS Foundation Trust (LUFT). It’s now established as a reablement unit to replace the intermediate care service previously provided by Ward 35.

Our Walk In Centres also played a central role during the pandemic and Community Discharge Matrons from ICRAS have been working in a newly devised integrated system with LUFT to support early discharge from hospital and to prevent admission.

Mersey Care’s workforce remains key to everything we want to achieve and your importance has only been further underlined by the COVID-19 pandemic. We know the last 12 months have been tough on so many of you and it’s vital that to look after your health and wellbeing.

We’ve established the Cheshire and Merseyside Resilience Hub, which has access to a wide range of psychological and wellbeing resources for NHS, social care and emergency services staff. You can access the hub here: https://www.cheshiremerseyresiliencehub.nhs.uk/

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We’ve also listened to our staff networks and created a new audacious goal which includes anti-bullying messages and sits with our commitment to zero acceptance of racism, discriminatory and disrespectful behaviour. It also aligns with our respect and civility eLearning module of our acclaimed Just and Learning Culture course.

Part of our duty of care to all our workforce, which was reflected in Mersey Care winning the Most Supportive Employer category at last year’s Brain Charity Awards, is to make sure our staff are engaged and informed about issues that affect you. We have achieved this with new extranet and website and have enhanced our communications channels.

The Zero Suicide Alliance continues to thrive and I’m extremely proud that over 1.9 million people worldwide have now accessed the various modules of suicide awareness training. The latest of those, which was launched this week, is aimed specifically at students and young people and adds to our growing portfolio of resources that includes social isolation training.

Finally, I’d like to thank all our colleagues who worked over the Christmas and New Year period to ensure our services remain safe. We know the NHS is a 24/7 operation but it’s been a challenging year for all of us, so let’s hope the coming 12 months are healthy and happy.

Prof Joe Rafferty CBE

Chief Executive

(My pronouns are He/Him/His)