Date published: 26 September 2022
It’s been an historic time for all of us since I last wrote a blog with the death of the Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, for most of us the only monarch we’ve ever known. Bereavement and change can be difficult at any time because they trigger emotions that may remind us of a sad loss of a friend or member of the family. We’ve tried to support our Mersey Care family by reminding you all of how to access Psychological therapies support and our Crisis Lines should you need them.
The loss of our Queen, the build up to last Monday’s funeral and ‘The Queue’ have, of course, dominated the news cycle in recent days. There’s no doubt, though, the shared period of mourning has helped many who have been deeply affected by these events.
There is a long standing relationship between the Royal Family and the NHS and a shared sense of duty, whether that is fulfilling state and national duties for the UK or caring for the sick and vulnerable within its population.
Prior to the period of mourning, I was surprised to see repeated items about the ‘wasteful NHS’ in the news. Like many of you, it’s not a narrative I recognise from my time at Mersey Care and is not one I believe is a fair reflection on the many NHS staff that go the extra mile to care for their patients and service users.
Here at Mersey Care we dedicate time to ensuring the public pound stretches ever further and it is that responsible fiscal management that has allowed us to improve our estate with new hospitals at Clock View, Hartley Hospital and Rowan View in recent years and the new South Liverpool hospital pending.
It's one of many recent examples of how language is hugely important in how we perceive things. If we’re not careful and we don’t challenge these incorrect statements there’s a danger of them being regarded as fact.
I wouldn’t want any of you turning up for work, for instance, thinking Mersey Care is an organisation that isn’t committed to ensuring we get value for money so we can provide the highest standards of care for our patients, service users and carers.
I think one of the headlines that annoyed me the most recently was one that claimed money has been wasted on ‘woke groups for NHS staff.’ For those of you who may not be up to speed with modern parlance, the dictionary definition of ‘Woke’ is someone ‘having or marked by an active awareness of systemic injustices and prejudices, especially those related to civil and human rights.’
I’ve been Chief Executive of Mersey Care for 10 years now and I’m extremely proud if we’re regarded as an organisation whose belief system allies closely to that definition. We aspire to be an employer of choice, an anti-racist organisation, we support LGBT+ rights, provide health and wellbeing resources and have introduced Restorative Just and Learning Culture because it’s the right thing to do as a caring, responsive and supportive organisation.
Leaving aside all the ‘labels’ staff initiatives are given at times, we’re an organisation that’s thought long and hard about how we support our workforce. It’s why we’ve established health and wellbeing as one of Mersey Care’s main strategic goals. This is what we stand for, we listen, understand and try our very best to support.
For those that maybe new to the Trust or seeking a career change and are considering joining Mersey Care, you can find our latest vacancies here. You can also find our more information about our staff networks on YourSpace but briefly, these are some of the groups:
- Ability First Network – this is dedicated to promoting equality for people with a disability or long term condition working within the Trust, which includes physical disabilities and hidden disabilities such as mental health
- Black and Minority Ethnic Staff Network (BAME) – developed to promote a culture of dignity, respect and inclusion for all. It exists to create a supportive working environment and policy framework for BAME colleagues while also encouraging all staff to understand the needs of BAME individuals within the community
- Dyslexia and Dyspraxia Network – Mersey Care is playing its part in fostering an environment where people with neurodiversity are empowered to play to their considerable strengths. We’ve been working with the British Dyslexia Association, who have told us that as a hidden difficulty, in some workplaces staff can find that they're not able to share the issues they have with emails, organising their work or planning
- LGBT+ Network - The Trust aims to work in partnership with the LGBT+ network to create a safe, inclusive and diverse working environment that encourages respect and equality for all
- Women’s Network – Launched in 2018, this network is committed to supporting women’s issues including menopause, sanitary provision and period poverty, carers and work life balance, new mothers returning to work and the gender pay gap
- Cheshire and Merseyside Resilience Hub – This is an NHS funded service that provides resources to staff members in the NHS, social care or emergency services, who are looking for further help and support. They offer a range of psychological interventions, therapeutic assistance and psychoeducational self-help resources.
We’re an organisation that’s thought long and hard about the above initiatives. I find it interesting these things can be presented as soft or fluffy when these so called ‘woke’ schemes ensure people are well supported, happier at work and can help improve patient care and experiences. Other people may regard it as ‘woke’ or whatever term they want to use for it, but we regard it as good management.
We also need to guard against intolerant language because it becomes a short step to talking about mental health or long term physical health issues as ‘personal choices’ and there in lies all the stigma and mainstreaming of social, financial and other injustices.
In my time within the NHS the use of language has become increasingly important, particularly at highly sensitive times of change like these. We’ve already talked about changing the use of the term ‘investigations’ to ‘Just and Learning Reviews’ because sometimes the language you use can insinuate guilt before any review has even begun. It’s subtle but it’s very important – there must be responsibility with the language we use.
Both within Mersey Care and the Zero Suicide Alliance, I’ve always been very keen we fight against the stigma that often surrounds mental health. That starts with how we describe suicide. We have put great emphasis over the years on not saying someone has “committed suicide” – an outdated and dangerous phrase which refers to when it was illegal prior to the Suicide Act 1961.
Instead, we refer to people ‘dying by suicide’ which I believe is far more respectful to everyone affected by such a devastating loss. I also believe it reflects better on an organisation committed to the highest standards of care to our many and diverse communities and looking after our workforce so they have the right support, skills and expertise to deliver high, quality services.
For those of you who would like more information about the ZSA and the great work they do, they have a very good website with access to various different training options to give you the skills to deal with someone who is struggling,
Once again, thank you for all your efforts and please, avail of the latest Covid 19 and influenza vaccination. Protect yourself, your family and your community, at work and at home.
Prof Joe Rafferty CBE