I’d like to start this week’s blog with a familiar message – please have your jab as soon as your opportunity arrives. Those 15 million who have had it already are people to be thanked and in our Trust, three quarters have now had their first dose - 6,090 of you.
These are excellent figures, both nationally and within our Trust, but if you’ve been offered and not accepted the opportunity then I’m asking you to think again – remember that NHS hospitals treated 242,307 patients who were confirmed to have COVID-19 in 2020.
In the first month of 2021 there were 101,956 more, meaning almost a third of all patients who have needed hospital treatment for the virus since the pandemic began were admitted in January. COVID-19 infection is serious and vaccination will reduce the more acute complications of this infectious disease.
The vaccine is safe and very effective. It saves lives and the more people vaccinated the better, so please play your part. Building up vaccine driven immunity in our patient population, within our workforce and in the population more generally will take some time.
It’s very important to understand, though, that getting your vaccination doesn’t mean the pandemic is over and you can dispense with the good practices of ‘face, space and hands’. Far from it, as news of mutations reminds us. It doesn’t mean we can’t spread the virus or that the rules are somehow not applicable any more.
A more normal way of living may be on the horizon but it won’t be reached if we let down our guard now. When better times come, it’s likely to still be a world of masks and hand sanitisers. The vaccine is an important move along the route back, but there are many more steps to come.
A more innovative NHS
Learning from the pandemic has been a theme of my blogs. We never once forget those personally affected by COVID-19 and certainly not those who have died. What we can do, though, is take on board all the experience we’ve gained to change our future.
The government’s new plans for the NHS post-pandemic are worth studying closely. It makes much of integration and accountability as well as connecting areas of healthcare. For our part, Mersey Care has led strongly in linking wider services together. We’ve innovated with new technology and we’ve used the kit that’s already present, like webcams, to deliver some care differently and more efficiently. We have valuable learning to offer into this discussion.
One example comes from the Occupational Therapists in Secure. They’ve created a functional assessment tool to look at changes in patients and their physical health as a result of having COVID-19. They offer practical advice and education around managing post-viral fatigue and changes in mobility and functioning after being ill with the virus and they’ve got specific resources for engaging in self-directed activities whilst in isolation.
Our learning that’s applicable to all staff has been set out in Mersey Care’s People Plan. I’ve outlined some of our plans in an earlier blog in that we want to improve recruitment and better support existing staff. We’ve set specific development goals, with commitments to address racism and disrespectful behaviours.
What does zero acceptance of racism mean? After all, such behaviour is rightly both offensive and an offence in law. Society has already spoken and imposed sanctions. Sadly, sometimes tragically, this hasn’t made the issue go away. We need to grasp it and take our own local action. Last year, Black Lives Matter and the health disparities revealed by COVID-19, showed us we’re not in a place where equality is even close. We need to make meaningful progress more rapidly.
We need to lower the water line so we can nip things in the bud. Recognise and call out inequalities so they’re seen as clearly unacceptable, but that’s not enough as the divide is too great, especially in healthcare. We’re working on this and staff will be supported and, as we’ve done with our restorative just culture, there’ll be the tools to make it happen. I want all staff to be on the lookout to call it out and act to put things right. Being fair and alert should be Mersey Care’s business as usual.
On this subject, I’d also like to welcome the initiative taken by leaders of the Central Liverpool Primary Care Network this week. Members of their patient participation group are being invited to leaders’ meetings with a particular focus on those from ethnic minority backgrounds. People from BAME communities are more likely to die from COVID-19 and this highlighted to them that ethnic minority communities were not doing as well as they should be in other areas, such as physical health, mental health, disability and pregnancy.
They have created a working group, pledged to improve training, appointed a freedom to speak up guardian and created a BAME network. These are all good moves and I know of several local partners doing the same kind of inclusive work, which is absolutely needed. If it’s a silver lining from the clouds of the pandemic that we all have added impetus now to act, then that’s good too.
Southport and Formby Community Services update
Last December I shared the good news that Mersey Care was awarded the contract to deliver Southport and Formby Community Services. On 1 May 2021 around 300 staff will transfer to our Trust and our organisation will become the single provider of community health services across the whole of Sefton. Alongside District Nursing and Therapy services there are a number of specialist services including Stoma, Diabetes, Clinical Health Psychology and Pain Management.
Last week members of the executive team and I led a series of virtual staff engagement events with Lancashire and South Cumbria Care NHS Foundation Trust staff who currently provide Southport and Formby Community Services.
The events were attended by more than 150 staff and provided an opportunity to say hello, share information about our organisation and our plans, and, more importantly, for them to ask questions. I was heartened to hear staff describe their immense pride, passion and commitment to patient care and share their hopes for the future.
There are various work streams working hard to ensure a smooth landing in the Community Services Division on 1 May.
It’s important to state that for patients, there’s no service changes – the contacts and clinicians will continue. This applies, too, for the acquisition of North West Boroughs Healthcare. I look forward to welcoming the Southport and Formby staff to our Mersey Care family in May and then North West Boroughs after that.
Its traditional characteristics, honesty, reliability and hard work, seem very fitting for this time.
Joe Rafferty CBE