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YOUR HISTORY Can sharing the past help us shape the future?

Help for Students Autumn 2020

Lose the Lockdown Load

All in the Genes








Why dancer Bill Harpe is stepping out after a stroke.





ARAB SCOUSE Find out how to make Leila’s cultural blend.




Our experts offer tips to shed the lockdown pounds.


A leading entertainment company is dropping its mental health acts and joining the fight against stigma.

Contributors: Diane Cooke, Jo Henwood, Rachel Robinson.

You can contact us at: communications@merseycare.nhs.uk

Editorial: Julie Crompton.


Photography: Joel Goodman, Freepik, Pixabay, Vecteezy.


Design: Jo Hadfield.




For centuries Roma communities have been ostracised and persecuted around the world. In Liverpool things are different.

MC magazine team: Managing Editor: Steve Murphy. Editor: Jackie Rankin.




MEMBERSHIP AND GENERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATION The GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulation, a European-wide law, which governs how organisations can collect, use and transfer personal data. It came into force on 25 May 2018 alongside the new Data Protection Act 2018. As a Foundation Trust, Mersey Care has a statutory requirement to develop and maintain a membership and it is necessary for us to process our members’ personal data to perform this task. Our members are drawn from the public, people who use our services or care for people who use our services and staff. We request and securely hold data on our members, which they provide when joining our membership. The data we hold on our members enables us to show that we are representative of the community we provide services for, to keep members updated through our quarterly MC magazine via email or post and to invite all members to the Annual General meeting. We also engage with all members advising when the election for governors will be taking place, giving members the opportunity to nominate themselves to become a governor and to vote in elections for the council of governors. Should you no longer wish to be a member of Mersey Care please email membership@merseycare.nhs.uk with your details or call 0151 471 2303 asking that your details be removed.


We put the spotlight on the teams who care for people at home, round the clock, to prevent them being admitted to hospital. Even at the end of someone’s life, supreme effort is made to make their final journey they way they want it to be.

ew seasons bring new challenges and new opportunities. Even in what has been an unprecedented year we can still embrace a new landscape and all that brings. Getting out and having a brisk autumn walk will help those of us who have succumbed to lockdown weight gain. Don’t be too hard on yourself, the experts we asked say. We should see this as a period in our life, like a festive season or a holiday, where our normal habits go astray. But we shouldn’t give ourselves a tough time, rather focus on a plan to get back on track while acknowledging our situation and allowing ourselves some self soothing through food.

How do we strike the balance between health and the economy – we ask three experts about how much one affects the other. Singing is known to boost feel good endorphins too. Lucky for patients of Robert Meinardi that their community nurse can tend to their healthcare needs, but if they ask he may just burst into classical tunes! (above and page 7). As part of our celebrations for Black History month and the diversity of the Mersey Care community, nurse Salome Mare-Walsh talked to MC magazine about life as a black woman, the challenges she and others still face and a sense that things are finally changing for the better.

Things are finally changing for the better. If you need uplifting, meet Bill, a ballet dancer from a mining family in the North East (ring any bells?). Thanks to the intuition of his physiotherapist, he’s back to work in the arts at the tender age of 84! Enjoy autumn!

The MC Magazine Team. We are in an ever changing situation. The information in this issue was correct at the time of going to press, but please consult nhs.uk or gov.uk for latest advice and information.






here’s calmness about Salome Mare Walsh that radiates. She’s gentle, quietly spoken and

reassuring in her manner. You can see why she would be ideal to support someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Nursing is Salome’s passion. She’s equally passionate about changing the lives of people whose skin, like hers, is not white. She’s starting in the workplace, where she says there’s still discrimination, but also a fast growing readiness to embrace change and, all, importantly, turn it into action. And that excites her. She chairs Mersey Care’s Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) network. It’s been around for years, providing a forum for staff from ethnic minorities. Trust support was there when asked for, she says, but the network operated mainly in isolation – until now. “The network was introduced because there was a disproportionate number of ethnic minority staff going through disciplinaries, or suspensions, yet we make up less than a tenth of Mersey Care’s workforce. Anyone can have disputes but you shouldn’t have to feel if you speak up, that you’ll be discriminated against because of your race. I wanted to make it equitable, to give people a forum to share their experiences and issues, influence and drive change.” One of those issues is feeling like you don’t fit in. “I’ve known black people try to straighten their hair so they’ll feel part of a team. When colleagues touch your hair, you wonder if it’s to see how black hair feels. It’s therapeutic for them but it’s invading my personal space.


Black History month spotlights the contribution black people have made to history and brought about change. MC magazine’s Rachel Robinson spoke exclusively to a mental health nurse striving to do the same.

“A colleague was told her hair felt like pubic hair. Every day we live with this and worse. I know of instances where patients won’t allow a black nurse to touch them.” Salome is frustrated that the diverse needs of different ethnic minority staff members and patients will struggle to be met - the term BAME ‘lumps people together who may not see themselves as the same.’

One of those issues is feeling like you don’t fit in.

“I’ve started to think the term doesn’t fit everybody, or feel good enough for the many different people it covers. Black people are different to Asian people, Chinese people; they have very different beliefs and cultures. It separates people based on looks and race. “I prefer the term people of colour; it takes away from a ranking system. Maybe we shouldn’t have a term at all. We should definitely keep talking about it.”

HOW DOES SHE FEEL ABOUT BLACK HISTORY MONTH? IS IT, AS SOME SAY, TOKENISTIC? “I can see why people may say that, it’s seasonal, they might ask why we need to have it at all, but there have been so many amazing contributions throughout history to science, medicine, and engineering, from black people yet we’re not told about them.

Caesarean sections were performed in Africa way before medicines were introduced. It’s important we know about them, they’re shaping all our futures.”

The pandemic has hit minority ethnic communities hard. Does this year’s celebration feel different because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on BAME communities, and the Black Lives Matter movement? “Yes it does. They’ve focussed people’s minds and highlighted the different struggles we face, not just sometimes but every day. The pandemic has hit minority ethnic communities hard. Black Lives Matter makes me emotional. It has taken a lot of courage by people who are fighting so hard just to be on the same starting line as everyone else.” Salome talks animatedly of developments within the BAME network and in Mersey Care. “Mersey Care has a duty to support its BAME workforce; it’s in the NHS People’s Plan. The Trust has always supported us, but now we feel we have allies giving us a platform. We’re at the table steering, giving advice, and helping them see it through our eyes. We’re driving this with passion and relishing the chance to do more.

WHAT’S CHANGED ON THE GROUND? “One of the most important differences is that the board has got involved. We’ve attended their meetings; Joe (Rafferty, Chief Executive) has been to our meetings; Beatrice (Fraenkel, Chairman) introduced our Black History Month celebrations. “When we realised the pandemic was hitting BAME staff hard, we started looking for ways to safeguard those staff against COVID-19. The Trust is listening to our concerns. There’s a will to do the right thing and we need to keep the focus on that. “We suggested training for managers so they could understand the worries of BAME staff about passing the virus to their families. It’s a work in progress, change takes time, but we can’t change things without senior leaders coming on board and that’s happening.”

DOES DISCRIMINATION STILL EXIST? “It does, and that’s what motivates me. The worst thing is to love your job but not feel supported to do it. But staff are noticing that things are changing, they see that there are people they can go to for support. “If Mersey Care as an employer, and we as peers are accepting of everybody it changes the team spirit. It promotes that feeling of camaraderie, of feeling safe in that environment.

AND THE FUTURE? “I’d love to see black and minority ethnic people represented at all levels – people in senior positions; on interview panels and on the board. I have children, I want BAME kids to know that this is a job they could do. “I’d like to think that our work would carry on if I or my colleagues left the Trust. There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s going in the right direction – and I think we’re going to get there.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE THIS BLACK HISTORY MONTH TO ACHIEVE? “Looking at the past helps us understand how we got to the present and starts us thinking about how we want the future to be. Knowing our history is what brings about more change, we need to embrace it”. CONTINUED ON PAGE 6. Salome Mare-Walsh manages Mersey Care’s Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment team.

“It impacts on service users too. Patients pick up on how we treat each other. If we feel comfortable at work, where it’s not about race, it’s about inclusion, that translates into the spirit of the team and the culture of the Trust. It can only improve the care patients receive. “When I’ve cared for minority ethnic patients I often think to myself ‘yes, I get you’’. It’s simple things like having an afro comb, or Vaseline to moisturise your skin. If we have staff who are representative, patients feel understood.

Knowing our history is what brings about more change... 5


IT’S TIME TO CONNECT Amanda Oates, Executive Director of Workforce.

Before this year my hope for Black History Month would have been to celebrate, share stories and put people’s experience of being from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic group, as part of our wider culture. For example, the BAME network has colleagues reviewing our recruitment policy and practices.


ow, with the connection to those groups we’ve experienced through the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, I’d hope we could all see things through a different lens and choose to learn and connect with what’s happening in our locality and across the country. If I’m honest, since I’ve been working more closely with my colleagues from the Trust’s Black Asian Minority Ethnic network, I’ve been enlightened by the sheer diversity of thought, experience and opinion.

We meet with the network chair and vice chair as a board and individually, and managers are providing network members with dedicated time out from their job roles to support the network.

A year ago I’d have probably said that it’s really important we look at institutionalised racism and systems and processes that disadvantage people – and at Mersey Care we’re doing that.

It means we’re working side by side and collaboratively. It’s supporting our belief that some people have been disadvantaged here; there have been disparities and it’s time to level up the playing field.

Now I’d say I made assumptions, spoke to too few people. I’d say I don’t know as much as I thought I did. But I’m now consciously aware of my gaps in knowledge and I’m trying hard to listen and learn more about people’s very individual experiences.

It’s not just in the workplace, it’s in society. There are challenges that people may not have even considered. For example finding a card in a shop with someone with black skin, or wearing a hijab on the front is almost impossible. Plasters and tights, even prosthetic limbs are more accessible for pale skin coloured people. How must that feel, being denied the expectation to source what you need?

HOW IS THE ROLE OF THE NETWORK CHANGING? They’re really driving and influencing developments. They have the autonomy and power to act and influence. We’ve asked them to challenge the status quo and tell us what they need and make suggestions.


We want more BAME staff at every level across the whole Trust. It’s easy to say, but we have to make it happen.

If we are really going to enact change, we have to get all those unaffected by racism, or any form of discrimination or disrespect, feeling outraged enough to support those who are. We’re not there yet, but we’re starting to be more connected.

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THIS IN MERSEY CARE? We want more BAME staff at every level across the whole Trust. It’s easy to say, but we have to make it happen, so we’ve recently set targets at our Trust Board to make sure it does. We’re looking at how to attract BAME staff and challenge situations within the organisation that may not feel right. Is discrimination still going on? “I’m sure it is. People still behave disrespectfully, that’s why our Civility and Respect campaign is so important. The bystander role is crucial; to speak out if you see or hear something and ensure staff are supported appropriately.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO LOOK BACK ON AND SEE? As with all our staff, I’d like to see our black staff and those from other minority ethnic groups say ‘I feel I belong at Mersey Care’. Diversity isn’t enough. We can have a diverse workforce, we may be representative and include them by involving them and engaging; belonging though is different. You don’t need to be asked, or included. You just feel that you belong and feel comfortable to truly be yourself.

We’ve asked the BAME network to challenge the status quo.

GOING FOR Nurse Robert Meinardi’s home visits are music to the ears of his patients – literally. The former professional opera singer will sometimes end a visit with a burst of song!


is admirers include Geoff Caddick, who had an inkling that the man who was caring for his wife June following surgery had hidden talents. Geoff should know – he too can belt out a classical tune and he’s used it to raise thousands of pounds for charities.



Realising his second calling, he enrolled at the University of York to study nursing. Music is and always will be his first love, but he’s passionate about caring, not just for someone’s physical health, but also their mental wellbeing. “I see the whole person, it’s important to keep people mentally well while they’re recovering physically. I’d never talk about my singing unless I was discussing music, or if someone asked, but once I’ve finished my nursing duties, if they ask I’d always sing a verse or two!”

He told MC magazine: “I said to my wife ‘he looks like he could be an opera singer’. Next time Robert came I asked and discovered he was a professional.” The pair decided to surprise June with their rendition of the Italian classic O Sole Mio, which translates as My Sunshine. Robert booked in as his final appointment of the day. A family member recorded the performance and it’s now gaining attention on YouTube. “It was amazing” said Geoff. “It lifted both our spirits.” Robert, ever modest, keeps quiet about his career unless he’s asked. Yet the Italian born tenor has sung with the Glyndebourne Opera company and performed the English national anthem at Twickenham! After finding it difficult to get roles – he feels because he wasn’t tall enough – Robert became a support worker at a neuropsychological rehabilitation health hospital in Cheshire.

• Watch Robert and Geoff’s duet on Mersey Care’s YouTube channel • Fancy singing yourself? Join a virtual choir by searching online in your area • Did you know? Singing has health benefits, from lowering blood pressure and reducing anxiety and pain.

June with husband Geoff (below left) and being serenaded by Robert Meinardi.

I see the whole person, it’s important to keep people mentally well while they’re recovering physically. 7



GENES Consultant psychiatrist Gemma Harpin.


Having an illness or condition diagnosed can be stressful – but not knowing what’s behind the symptoms can have massive consequences on people’s health and lives. A project that sequenced the genes of 100,000 people is finally giving answers.


ack in 2012, Prime Minister David Cameron announced the 100,000 Genomes Project. In a world first, scientists have since sequenced 100,000 whole genomes from NHS patients, to identify the cause of some rare diseases (as well as infectious diseases and some cancers), and help point the way to new treatments.

blood testing could be an issue. There was also the ethical dilemma; what if we find something, how do we explain this to someone who may not understand?”

Mersey Care was invited to be involved in looking at the genomes of patients with a learning disability. Head of research Pauline Parker was excited yet aware of the challenges ahead.

At least 80 percent of rare diseases are genetic with half of new cases found in children. Parents often blame themselves, thinking their child’s behaviour is down to poor parenting. Gemma Harpin, consultant psychiatrist and Mersey Care’s Clinical Champion for the project, says undiagnosed genetic disorders are often associated with mental and physical health problems.

“We wanted to make sure our patients made informed choices, in some cases finding the family members who would also need to be involved might be difficult, and many people with learning disabilities are needle phobic so

“Someone with a learning disability who may not be able to explain the physical discomfort due to communication difficulties or their level of learning disability, may resort to self injury, or disturbed behaviour.

“If they have a syndrome that causes gastric reflux for example, but because of the learning disability they’re unable to explain, they may be unable to communicate their pain and instead present with challenging behaviour. This could lead to them receiving the wrong treatment, which itself may result in side effects. “If we know they have the syndrome we’d perhaps opt for an antacid and they may never need to be on medications such as anti-psychotics, which can have these side effects.

“It’s a small thing but it can make a big difference.” Gemma was keen to reduce distress for patients who may have a needle phobia. Members of the Trust’s research team worked closely with health centre staff, phlebotomists and community teams who combined the genetic testing with regular blood tests to reduce stress. Tests were sent directly to geneticists at Liverpool Women’s Hospital and results shared with all those involved in the person’s care.

She says the benefits are clear. “Today children are now automatically screened, but until now there was no pathway for people in their 50s, who have lived with these issues all their lives, sometimes on powerful medications that they may not need. Having this valuable information could prompt changes, however small, that can improve people’s lives and give much needed reassurance to families.”



ue had always known in her heart that her son was different. But what she learnt from his genome test was staggering.

Jonny, now 40, is one of only 50 people in the world with White Sutton syndrome. His diminutive stature, poor hearing and vision, hyperactivity and severe gastric reflux are all classic traits, but it’s the genetics that have offered proof beyond doubt. From childhood, Jonny has been assessed and prescribed medications but the family had never had a definitive diagnosis. His conditions were treated in isolation, and the cause remained a mystery. At 19, struggling with anxiety and needing acceptance from his peers, Jonny was befriended by local men, physically and psychologically abused and drawn into a twilight world, ending up in the criminal justice system. “It was heart breaking, he just wanted to be part of the gang, but they did terrible things to him and he became suicidal.”said Sue. Jonny was admitted to a secure hospital for people with learning disabilities in Whalley, Lancashire, rather than prison. His mum was happy he was safe, but still longing to find out what was wrong with him.

She relished the chance to take part in the Genome Project and maybe unlock the secret of Jonny’s plight. Information was scant. Jonny’s biological father had left when he was a baby, and Sue had been adopted. Research practitioner Michaela Thomson was determined to help the family get information that might give them hope. Sue didn’t live locally, so Michaela organised for Sue’s blood samples to be sent directly to the Women’s Hospital in Liverpool. When the results came in Michaela was excited, yet conscious of the impact on the family. Given the rarity of the condition, she sought help from Mersey Care’s evidence service. Their review of evidence around White Sutton disease confirmed the genetic tests. She then worked with speech and language therapists from the Whalley site to create an easy read version of the information for Jonny, and for Sue and Jonny’s sister so they could support him. “For the research team it was a massive success, but we had to remember the human story behind it. The family has been through so much, Sue has always blamed herself. We had to take it at their pace, but I couldn’t wait to tell her and take away the guilt.”

Research practitioner Michaela Thomson.

The team plans to share the results with the care team at Jonny’s new placement, which could lead to a reassessment of his current care and recovery pathway. For Sue, it’s the beginning of a new chapter. “After years of having nothing definitive and watching him struggle it’s a relief to know what it is that’s causing his problems. We can move on knowing what we’re dealing with.” One in four patients with a rare disease received a diagnosis for the first time. • White Sutton Syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes learning disabilities, specific facial features, and other bodily symptoms. Most affected individuals have some form of autism and delayed development. Common signs and symptoms include: hyperactivity; sleeping difficulties; vision defects, especially farsightedness; gastrointestinal problems; obesity; and short stature. Find out more at: genomicsengland.co.uk





Being a new student in a pandemic is not easy. New rules mean lectures are online and Freshers’ parties are banned.


niversities themselves can’t host the mix and mingle events that help forge often lifelong friendships. At what should be the start of new horizons, students face challenging times. For some the struggle began before they left their family in the car park of their halls of residence. Around three quarters of adults experience the first symptoms of mental health problems before the age of 25. About half of all students report thoughts about self harm (Mental Health Survey


Therapy in two weeks for students in new scheme

2020) and it’s been identified that university students are at a high risk of developing a mental health issue.

The website insidehighered.com reports that a mountain of troubling data about rising mental health problems has health advocates and providers worried about the need for additional support for struggling students, and the ability of universities to provide it. Michelle Barsoum leads a new programme that will give students from University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University a fast route to therapy. The U-COPE service will offer a single contact point for students with a history or current self harm to access the service they need – and quickly.

It’s based on Mersey Care’s Hope programme, where someone who goes to A&E with a self injury is assured 72 hours therapy starting within two weeks. Evidence shows this approach is highly successful in breaking the cycle of self harm.

It’s being there at a vital stage and getting help fast. Students will be offered Psychodynamic Interpersonal Therapy (PIT) blended with Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT), which helps the person understand their emotional reactions to situations.

The programme was funded by a successful bid with the Office for Students who set the challenge to develop partnerships to improve student access to mental health services through sustainable partnerships.

Michelle explains: “We all encounter adverse situations. If someone has developed poor ways of reacting to the stress, maybe by harming themselves or abusing alcohol or drugs, therapy can help to find ways of coping that won’t cause more distress.”

Said Michelle: “We know this service is much needed so it’s really good to see it coming to fruition. Liverpool has plenty of really excellent services for young people. Now we’re bringing them all together so students can be sure they can get treatment quickly. If they’ve been with a mental health service at home, we’ll link in with them so we can mirror that support. It’s being there at a vital time and getting help fast.

Students who don’t self harm, but are struggling with their mental health, will be offered group therapy in the next roll out phase of the service. The team will be working in partnership with universities so they can properly support the student through difficult periods and collaborate to offer the best support and outcomes. The therapy is offered virtually, which is important if students are studying remotely. Photos: Joel Goodman

Therapy can help students find ways of coping that won’t cause more distress.

“A huge part of the project is to bring the partnerships together and develop effective transitions and pathways for students so that they can access the right mental health support at the right time.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 12.

HELP... • University of Liverpool liverpool.ac.uk/studentsupport • Liverpool John Moores University studentwellbeing@ljmu.ac.uk • For urgent mental health support call Mersey Care on: 0800 145 6570

USEFUL WEBSITES AND RESOURCES • NHS website: nhs.uk • Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity: studentminds.org.uk • MIND mental health support: mind.org.uk



GIVING BACK SELF “There’s a real energy behind what we’re offering to students.” So says mental health practitioner Pol Stoker about the new therapy service.


eil Cook, who will deliver the service with Pol, agrees. “The number of students going to hospital with self injury has shown that something like this is needed. If we can help them address their emotional difficulties, it could prevent attendances at A&E in the future. That future will begin with a programme of therapy, guaranteed to begin within two weeks of getting in touch. It aims to bring the person to understand why they may react as they do to emotional distress. This should in turn enhance control and self belief.


Pol Stoker and Neil Cooke will deliver the new service.


Both Neil and Pol have vast experience of supporting young people. Neil is a social worker who has come to the role from Mersey Care’s innovative personality disorder service. Pol supported 14 to 25 year olds through early intervention services.

Pol and Neil plan to be based on campus. While restrictions are in place sessions will be held online. Both practitioners wish they could be face to face and Pol is candid about the drawbacks of running sessions virtually. But their commitment is the same.

They recognise how pressures in a student’s life can build up as they transition to independent life at university. They may include poverty, complex relationships, identity, sexuality or other issues.

“When you’re in a room with someone there can be energy, on the other hand some people prefer the security and control of being online. Whatever the situation we know we’ll make it work.”

“These factors can all have a negative impact upon someone’s mental health especially if they don’t have ways of self soothing, or have difficulties relating to other people,” says Pol. Neil urges students to seek help instead of using harmful coping methods. “Taking that first step is a huge part of recovery. If you’re struggling with your emotions please get in touch.”

If you feel you would benefit from this service please speak to your student wellbeing services. University of Liverpool: liverpool.ac.uk/studentsupport Liverpool John Moores University: studentwellbeing@ljmu.ac.uk For urgent mental health support call Mersey Care on: 0800 145 6570





How you spend your days is, after all how you spend your life, wrote American author Annie Dillard. Yet how we spend our final days is not always how we’d choose.


pecialist palliative care nurse Phil Green believes the care we receive at the end of our lives is crucial not only for a dignified and peaceful death, but for those left behind. “Choosing how and where they want to die is important to people with a terminal diagnosis. When promises aren’t kept it can also have a huge knock on effect for those left.” Phil is part of the palliative care team that supports families who have been told their loved one is on their final journey. Their lives have often been preoccupied with hospitals and medical interventions aimed at making them better. Then suddenly they’re faced with the unthinkable. It can be tough. He and his colleagues can become a lifeline for families and colleagues as they guide patients on a journey that can require skilled psychological support, as well as pain and symptom control. Phil’s passion for quality in palliative care came as a student more than two decades ago and was strengthened during his time as

a district nurse, as he realised the importance of looking after the whole person, not just their medical needs. His desire to know the person and their family is genuine. “I want to find out about them so we can have proper chats about things they enjoy; their football team, work or hobbies. “People are very different, they have their own beliefs. It’s important to me that I get the dynamic right from the start. I can then ask what they’d like to achieve so I can help them towards their personal ‘pot of gold’. It could be something small, like getting out into the garden, or to manage the pain control or symptoms. “It could be how and where they want to end their life; if that’s where they’re at we’ll have the discussion, but it’s also about how they want to live the life they have.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 14.

Specialist palliative care nurse Phil Green.

Choosing how and where they want to die is important to people with a terminal diagnosis. 13

AS YOU WISH A social media campaign #sharelastwishes is encouraging people to talk more about how they want their funeral to go. Creator Mark Simpkin, who runs Adlington Memorial Park in Cheshire, believes that for those who find the conversation difficult, a social post limited to closest family, and posting a ‘why I’m sharing’ message to hashtag #sharelastwishes will break the taboo and make it the norm, to make sure last wishes are granted. “This is for everyone, any age. We need to take away the stress of being unsure if they’re doing ‘what he or she would have wanted’ when they’re struggling with loss.” Legal secretary Audrey Appleton (pictured below) has told her family she wants her farewell to be big and bold, with steel drums and the family’s famous goat curry served at her wake. Audrey took her lead from mum Winnie, who sadly died earlier this year. “She wanted to wear her jewellery, listen to The Drifters as she was laid to rest in a coffin draped in the Jamaican flag, with doves flying overhead.” And of course the goat curry!

It’s essential we get it right, for the person and so the memories are the best they can be for those left behind. Phil and his team are specialists, offering solutions in complex situations, and working closely with district nurses and psychologists, to care for the patient’s mental and aswell as physical wellbeing. It’s challenging. “You’re constantly thinking how to make someone’s life better. You couldn’t do this job if you didn’t have that approach. I always say we give someone a ‘good listening to.’”

THE TEAM HAS CARRIED ON VISITING PATIENTS THROUGHOUT THE PANDEMIC “It’s been hard on everyone but especially for someone who doesn’t have a long life ahead of them; they need a lot of psychological support,”says Phil. “When families weren’t able to visit, patients would turn to us for support.” Having to wear personal protective equipment is necessary but has drawbacks in a role that relies heavily on empathy. “I use non verbal communication to reach out to someone – a look, a touch, the stroking of a hand; it’s how I break down barriers. It’s hard to do that wearing a mask and gloves.”

Audrey Appleton.

A BIG QUESTION IS ‘HOW LONG HAVE I GOT? “Some people want to know at the outset, for others it may be too soon, we take our lead from the person. I recently visited a lady diagnosed with a brain tumour. She said “I know what’s happening; I just don’t want to talk about it.” I told her ‘you know where I am when you do want to talk’. That was enough for her at that moment. “Another family desperately wanted to keep their dad at home in his final weeks but were concerned that he couldn’t swallow medication, so I organised for support so their wishes could be carried out. We only get one chance to carry out people’s wishes – it’s essential we get it right for the person, and so the memories are the best they can be for those left behind.” Ref: Annie Dillard: The Writing Life (1989).

THE RIGHT CARE AT THE RIGHT TIME In Liverpool and Sefton more than 1000 people are in the last 12 months of their life.

taken to hospital when they would prefer to be supported at home.

A new virtual team made up of hospital specialists, district nurses, palliative care teams and hospices means families and professionals can call one number, day or night, to get the service they need, where they want it.

“More people in Liverpool and Sefton die in hospital than in many other parts of the country. Now we’ve brought everyone together more as one integrated team they’ll jointly plan care, so people will receive the right service at the right time.”

Integrated Mersey Palliative Care team (IMPaCT) means everyone involved in someone’s care will come together regularly to plan and monitor someone’s care.

Mersey Care’s GP advisor Cait Taylor says patients, carers and health professionals should all benefit from the new service.

The team includes GPs, Aintree Hospital, district nurses and palliative care nurses, and Woodlands and Marie Curie hospices.


The team involves everyone in discussions whether about prognosis, care planning or last wishes. “We have discussions, but how far we go is up to the person. They set the parameters, and then we guide each other down the path they choose.” says Phil.

Programme manager Zoran Blackie said while everyone was managing their own services well, services were fragmented, with potential for people to fall through the net, or end up calling 999 and being

“IMPaCT will help GPs and community nurses providing end of life care by having a dedicated phone line for specialist palliative care advice and support. Patients and carers can feel reassured knowing they can get whatever they need from one single contact point. It will give everyone involved confidence that there’s a system in place to co-ordinate and support people at the end of their life.”




AMONG STRANGERS When Jen Wharton realised her husband Frank was losing his battle with Parkinson’s disease, her first thought was that he should spend his final moments at home.


rank had lived with Parkinson’s for 13 years. He’d suffered strokes which left him with epilepsy, and had spent long periods in hospital. Jan was grateful for the care he’d received from Aintree Hospital, but as he became more unwell, she was sure that she didn’t want him to end his life in hospital. She welcomed an offer by Frank’s Parkinson’s nurse to have palliative care at home.

Frank Wharton.

“Frank was weak and frail. I knew we were heading towards the end. He was a real family man, his family and his close friends were all he needed. All I could think was ‘I don’t want him to die amongst strangers’.

Palliative care specialist nurse Phil Green became the family’s link to Mersey Care and other services. Jen recalls: “Your loved one means so much; you don’t want them to be just a part of someone’s job. Phil spoke kind words, but he also listened and that was very important to us. We didn’t have to think of anything, he took care of it all.” While she misses Frank terribly Jen says the memories of his final weeks give her comfort. “Those last memories stay with you. We knew that people were praying for us and Frank’s last weeks were more peaceful than at any other time throughout his illness. We knew

we could call Phil or one of the district nurses; there was always someone there if we were in need. I felt that we were upheld in a basket of care.

Jen with her husband Frank.

We really did get that extra support that we needed and I will always be grateful for the palliative care team; their support meant that Frank could end his life peacefully, at home, with his family near him.”

Their support meant that Frank could end his life peacefully, at home, with his family near him.




Bill’s a ballet dancer from the North East. He’s a one off. They could have made a film about him. We find out why, at 84, he’s polishing his tap shoes.

Bill Harpe

FEATURE I realised how important it was for Bill to get back to work.


ention the name Bill Harpe in any arts scene across the North West and there’ll be few who don’t have a memory or a tale to tell.

The progress he’s made so far is, he says, down to his own determination and the support he’s had from Mersey Care community physiotherapist Amanda Gormley.

His story is as unconventional as the man himself. Born in a mining community in Darlington, he did ballet as a young boy, went to Cambridge on a scholarship, joined the Royal Air Force for National Service and was supported to train with the London Ballet.

“I was feeling disillusioned then Amanda came”, he told MC magazine. “I was Amanda Gormley, able to use my experience as community physiotherapist. a ballet dancer to explain where the weaknesses were. She immediately knew what I needed and gave me good exercises to improve my posture. She’s an intelligent intuitive person.”

Since then he’s worked worldwide, directing arts festivals in the UK and Zambia and in 1967 the opening ceremony of Liverpool’s metropolitan cathedral, including a choreographed mass. He’s still working hard, creating and directing new programmes at Liverpool’s Black -E community arts centre, his cultural ‘home’ since 1968.

I was able to use my experience as a ballet dancer to explain where the weaknesses were. Bill’s also putting all his determination and zest into recovering from a stroke 18 months ago, which badly affected his left side. He’s ‘frustrated and angry’ at the restrictions it has placed on his ability to work, and with what he sees as system delays to treatment that may have speeded up his recovery.

Billy Elliot - another ballet dancing lad from the North East.

The admiration is mutual. Says Amanda: “When I met Bill he was struggling with fatigue and quite frustrated. When he told me his story I realised how important it was for him to get back to work.

Bill showed me his tap shoes and told me they were part of his plan for getting back to work. “To the untrained eye there was not much to see but I could tell his left foot was dragging. We worked on a programme and he’s gone above and beyond what was needed. When the time came for him to be discharged he showed me his tap shoes and told me they were part of his plan for going back to work. I had to tell him to sit down and not overdo it!” Bill’s master plan came from their sessions. “I started thinking what I could do to help myself and build on what Amanda had done for me. Stroke affects the brain and the body – I decided on chess for my brain and tap dancing for my body. I know getting back to the way things were may be a way off but I’ll keep going till I’m back at the Black-E…” thedramaofthemass.com


Samy lordan.

The Roma community is the biggest ethnic minority group in Europe. Their history is one of persecution and discrimination, to this day. Yet in Liverpool the Roma population is growing and thriving. We talk to the community workers leading by example.


amy lordan is 19. He enjoys modelling, but right now he’s a role model, helping young people from Liverpool’s Roma community to integrate.

“In Eastern Europe healthcare is bought, so health is a low priority. Mental health issues carry so much stigma that they’re not talked about until someone becomes acutely unwell,” says Bianca.

It’s a tough task. Roma are notoriously wary of outsiders. Originally from India, they migrated to Europe, were forced to settle in Eastern Europe, and have been ostracised and persecuted around the world for centuries. Their mistrust and fear stops them engaging with those who could help them integrate.

In Eastern Europe, health is seen as a low priority.

In Liverpool things are different. Bianca Oprea has been Mersey Care’s link worker* for the Romanian community in Liverpool for two years. She’s had to work hard to win the hearts and minds of the Roma. Her biggest ally is Alexandra Bahor, a member of the Roma community and its community development worker for Granby Toxteth Development Trust. Their passion for improving the lives of those they serve is infectious. Their differences are what makes the partnership special, says Bianca. “Alexandra is Roma, I’m not. Yet we’re working together, supporting each other’s community. We’re setting an example and sending a message to people that they can trust each other. It’s telling them we won’t judge, that we’re here to support them. We always start conversations with ‘how can I help’?” Bianca’s role is to engage people with health services. While most Eastern European families don’t have the perilous journeys of refugees – resettlement programmes give them the right to live and work here – they still face challenges.


Language and cultural barriers make Roma people reluctant to register with a GP. That’s where she can help. “They’ve not had schooling so their literacy levels are low, they’re afraid, they fear having to fill in forms. All these things have a detrimental effect on their health,” she says. “Because we have their trust we can explain the importance of prevention and help them get the care they need.” Alexandra was a peer mentor in Budapest before coming to the UK. She oozes passion and talks animatedly about what’s happening in the Toxteth area. There’s a sense she doesn’t switch off from the job – it’s her life. She loves her community and is delighted that Bianca is there to concentrate on their health needs. “She’s made a big difference, people know she won’t judge them.” Bianca says people from Eastern Europe are often misrepresented. “It’s easy to label people. We speak loud and we love our traditions. But we also want to integrate, study, work and contribute”. There’s no better example than outreach worker Samy. He was 15 when his family came to the UK from Spain to find work. His first language is Spanish, so he had to adapt quickly. He volunteered and is now working for Granby Toxteth Development Trust.

“I was bullied a bit at school, but we were made welcome, and Alexandra helped us so much. I’m now doing the same, helping people get past the language barrier and speak to services. I miss the sun but I love it here,” he said. Alexandra tells of a young Roma boy and girl who have recently enrolled as police cadets. She couldn’t be more proud of what she sees as aspirational role models to their peers. “There’s been a massive change. We’ve shown them there’s only help and support. This is a growing community, Roma people are moving to Liverpool from other countries and cities. They feel safe here; it’s like a big family.” The biggest challenge since the pandemic is being unable to have face to face contact. But Bianca says Roma families are still receiving support remotely via telephone consultations. Good things are happening within the community. Parents are getting involved with their children’s schools. Younger people are studying, some gaining university places. Health taboos are also fading. At one time going to an antenatal class would have been unthinkable. With Bianca’s encouragement Roma mums are now attending specialised antenatal sessions at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

WHAT’S THE HOPE FOR THE FUTURE? Alexandra and Bianca share the same vision – to empower the people they support to be actively involved in their own health and wellbeing journey. Says Bianca: “If that happens they can become community champions, which creates a ripple effect – they’re giving back to their communities.”

*Bianca Oprea is now team leader for Mersey Care’s social inclusion team.




Bianca Oprea (left) and Alexandra Bahor.


BETTER TOGETHER They say it takes a village to raise a child. We discover how keeping people well and out of hospital is all the better through teamwork.


aula McNulty is an experienced occupational therapist. But sometimes her patients will have more than therapy needs.

When this happens Paula can draw on the expertise of any one of a group of professionals. She coordinates the Integrated Care Team (ICT), a group that includes GPs, physiotherapists, social workers, mental health, allied health professionals, matrons, district nurses, voluntary services, pharmacists and administrators.

They’re ready to step in and provide whatever is necessary. They’re all ready to step in and provide whatever’s necessary for the person to recover or stay well – not just their health but often their life. The team will come together to look at factors that may be contributing to that person’s distress or poor health, based on goals set by the person themselves. They’ll then call on the best source of help.

Paula McNulty.

Paula chairs the Aintree, Croxteth and Norris Green team. She says every case is different.

“It could be health related, but equally someone may need help with finances or to be reconnected with their community. We could step in to help an elderly carer who has their own health issues. “Parents who are unsure of the development stages for their baby may benefit from a health visitor giving them little nuggets of knowledge, to reduce anxiety and help them be the mum and dad they want to be. They can advise them on other services that can support them, such as children’s centres.”

A single piece of information could make a big difference to someone’s life. “As a team we have years of experience and rich resources and knowledge to tap. It’s good to know that one of us might have that single piece of information that could make a big difference to someone’s life.”

A CHANCE AT LIFE Paula recalls a 50 year old lady with Asperger’s Syndrome, epilepsy and difficult to control diabetes (the diabetes could lead her to present with erratic behaviour which caused great distress to her family). “When we met her she was very distressed and frustrated. During a recent hospital stay she had been prescribed medications which stabilised her mood. But we all wanted more for this lady who had missed out on so many life opportunities.” The team linked in with a specialist diabetes nurse at the Royal Liverpool Hospital and a specialist epilepsy nurse at the Walton Centre. Liverpool City Council’s telehealth service provided an epilepsy sensor mat for her bed at home, so the team could keep a record of seizure episodes. The Trust’s Asperger service advised on the best way to communicate with the patient about staying well, and a learning disability nurse accompanied her social worker on visits to offer support and insight into her particular needs relating to her medical problems.


The team worked with her family, signposting them to an autism passport which can help other agencies understand her needs when family can’t be around her. They’ve recently linked with the student support team at a local college. The lady is going to the Trust’s Life Rooms and using the Household into Work scheme to access programmes to prepare her for full study. Says Paula: “She’s now in a position to fulfil her ambition of studying. Her family is delighted too. With the benefit of the wisdom and knowledge of everyone involved this lady is finally having the life she deserves.”


Margaret and Brian with son Chris and granddaughter Erin.


Brian Dailey was struggling with his rehabilitation following a stroke. Brian, 82 was main carer for his wife Margaret who has complex health problems and is in constant pain.


argaret was being supported by Leah Dean, who leads the North Liverpool integrated care, reablement and assessment service (ICRAS). The service brings together specialist teams of health and social care professionals, to prevent hospital admission by providing the care someone needs, in their own home. Leah felt Brian needed extra support, but was concerned at the impact if he went into hospital. She recalls: “They’re such a lovely couple; they’ve been together 50 years. I knew that being separated would be distressing for them.” She drew on the support of her ICRAS colleagues to provide a care package for Brian so he could stay at home.

The team links with hospitals and GPs so that when someone is discharged a tailored care package is already in place. They can respond within a few hours of the referral, to assess what the person may need. “We have such a diverse team that we can bring in support quickly. We’ll keep reviewing the situation as someone becomes more able. We take our lead from the patient, we’re here for them.” The couple’s son Chris is an older people’s mental health nurse with Mersey Care. He was both reassured and astounded at the speed of the response from the team. “If they’d been apart my mum and dad wouldn’t have lasted long but I knew it

Leah Dean supports the Dailey family.

would be difficult looking after both parents. I didn’t know where to start, but they just came in and took away the stress. “The way they approached it was fantastic. Nothing was an issue. Each day they’d turn up and say ‘we arranged for this therapy, or that service’, or for some equipment to be delivered. They even washed my mum’s hair. We couldn’t have asked for better support.” Leah says being able to support patients like Brian and Margaret is rewarding. “That side of health care doesn’t get much exposure, but it can make such a big difference, it’s so rewarding.”


If life in lockdown has shown us one thing it’s that when the going gets tough we have an inbuilt ability to cope – we’re resilient.





veryone has a story to tell about coping during the spring lockdown. Some are happy to spend time in isolation, others have felt desperately lonely. Most of us learned something about ourselves.

presenter told Heat magazine: “I was tired and so busy all the time. Then, all of a sudden, my world stopped. I couldn’t use work as a form of escapism, so I had to sit and think and analyse what was going on in my world.”

It’s not just us – TV presenter Gok Wan had a “really, really tough time” during lockdown. So, too, did former Labour Party communications director Alastair Campbell.

Alastair Campbell suffered one of his darkest episodes during the last few weeks of lockdown. He told a BBC documentary: “I have had a lot of suicidal ideation... when you are like that, you don’t think there is light at the end of the tunnel. You only feel the light at the end of the tunnel when it begins to lift.”

Gok struggled isolating alone with just his dog Dolly. The ‘Say Yes to the Dress Lancashire’ Alastair Campbell

Both took positives from the experience. Gok overcame his personal hang-up of not being intelligent enough by watching documentaries and reading. He also started cooking and delivering food to neighbours. And he realised being single wasn’t at all bad.

“Before lockdown, I would probably have spent the whole time saying, ‘Arrrrghhh! Why am I still single?’ But I haven’t got any of that stuff going on now, I’m just really grateful I can see my mates.”

I hated having my liberty taken away from me. For Alastair Campbell, exercise, eating well, sleeping well and keeping his family close all helped during the dark times. Interviewing other people about depression also opened his eyes to how many people are battling similar issues. “That showed me that at least I am not on my own with this - and that helps.” If life in lockdown has shown us one thing it’s that when the going gets tough we have an inbuilt ability to cope – we’re resilient. Can we grow from this? (see page 24)



Resilience is defined by psychologists as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.


Gok Wan started cooking and delivering food to neighbours. And he realised being single wasn’t at all bad.

Gok Wan



CAN WE GROW FROM THIS? Resilience involves “bouncing back” from difficult experiences, but it can also bring about profound personal growth.


ersey Care assistant psychologist Jack Newton works with patients who have experienced extreme traumas in their lives, often as children. He feels that as a nation we should adopt what clinicians call a trauma informed approach to help people heal and move forward from the pandemic. Here, rather than offer direct therapy or interventions, the focus is on creating safe environments and highlighting the importance of relationships to help build resilience. “People are suffering what we call vicarious trauma. They may not have had direct contact with COVID-19, but by watching the news, for example, they can be affected”. Although we’re facing the same situation we react differently, often based on our previous life experiences. “Someone who spends a lot of time with others may find being alone during lockdown difficult. They might not have resilience in that area. Whereas another person in a similar situation might have had experience living a fairly solitary life, so may have already built up resilience because of their previous circumstances”, says Jack.

The key principles of a trauma informed approach to caring for someone is to restore their sense of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, empowerment and attend to intersectionality. COVID-19, he says, has compromised each of these in many of us. “Our sense of individual and collective safety has been removed. Our choice of control over our daily lives has been lost, along with our sense of empowerment, all in a pervasive feeling of powerlessness. “Trustworthiness may have been damaged in the government’s handling of certain aspects of the pandemic, while some minority groups in the UK have suffered more than others, particularly the Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community, undercutting ‘intersectionality’.” Jack uses a Tree of Life model as an example for us to recognise that we are the authors of our own lives, and to change our stories of trauma and loss into a story of resilience. People are invited to each draw a tree where roots, trunk, leaves etc. represent their own origins, experiences and emotions. Jack explains how the pandemic has affected our own Tree of Life. “During lockdown the ground under that person’s ‘tree’ has been shaken by a fundamental change in their daily lives. Likewise, their ‘branches’ may

Jack Newton assistant psychologist.

be troubled, in that their hopes and wishes for the future are now uncertain – they may not be able to see an end to their hardships. Leaves may have fallen from their trees if they have lost family members or friends to the virus.” “By coming together to form our ‘Forests of Life’, people can acknowledge that, even though we are not out of the woods yet, we are collectively building our resilience to be in the best position possible to weather any future storms.”

Jack has written about Resilience and the Tree of Life in The Psychologist magazine. Read the article at: thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/we-are-not-out-woods-yet-maybe-answers-lie-within-trees

The Tree of Life was developed by Ncazelo Ncube in Zimbabwe as a tool to support vulnerable and grieving children affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis. Metaphors and questions are used to empower people to shape their experiences into stories of strength and hope in the face of adversity.


HOW DOES THE TREE OF LIFE WORK? • Roots represent cultural and familial origins • Ground represents where one lives and their day to day activities • Trunk represents skills, memories and experiences • Branches represent hopes, dreams and wishes • Leaves represent significant others • Fruits represent gifts, either material or emotional.



THEN WHO? Nneka Smith is a diagnostic radiographer, mum, blogger and self confessed ‘medical nerd’. She lives with a form of Sickle Cell disease and is involved in clinical trials to improve the lives of people like her. She tells her story to MC magazine to show there’s hope... Nneka and her son. I’m competitive, strong willed, independent, netball and sport obsessed. I’m hyper, can jump like Tigger, I could talk for GB, I’m a bit of a terrier when I’m on to something.

I took part in clinical trials to help people who will be diagnosed in the future. There’s very little research and knowledge about my conditions and my variant is rarely included.

I also have a blood disorder known as HbSC disease, a variant of sickle cell disease. My red blood cells are crescent moon shaped rather than doughnut shaped like most people, so they don’t carry oxygen and carbon dioxide around my body. They build up and get trapped in my blood vessels, killing the tissue. It causes constant pain – but the scary part is that it can lead to strokes or other serious complications.

I’m only the second person in the UK to undertake the trial. It involves endless tests, monthly infusions of the drug – or a placebo – and a daily diary. It’s time consuming – on occasions I’ve been weighed, blood tested, cannulas fitted, work and have my infusion all in one day – but it’s worth it. The drug has already been approved in the US and is on sale – at well over $100,000 a year – but in Europe we have different standards so the research is still going on.

Some people are constantly in hospital on opioids to stop the pain. I’m lucky that it only gets really bad a few times a year. On the flipside, I have retinopathy where my vision is impaired or I can’t see at all, and avascular necrosis, where the bone tissue dies due to lack of blood supply. I deal daily with pain, visual problems and more. But I’m a mother and a diagnostic radiographer. I’m on my feet, pushing around heavy equipment and caring for patients. I drink plenty, eat well and stay active. But in the back of my mind there’s always the fear that any moment I could end up in hospital.

If all goes to plan it would mean people like me would experience fewer crises and hospital admissions. We wouldn’t be in pain like we are now. The next step is to find out if I’ve had the drug or the placebo. Eventually everyone who needs it will be offered the drug. It’s been a long process, but an exciting prospect...” Follow Nneka’s blog at: Invisible 30something Find out more: nhs.uk (search Sickle Cell) Sickle Cell Society: sicklecellsociety.org sicklecellintervention.co.uk




SAVING LIVES Male suicides in England and Wales are now at their highest rate in two decades. A report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that suicide rates for women are also at their highest since 2004 – with a significant rise among females aged 10 to 24. We look at initiatives to help us all play a part in talking to save lives. And we hear from one man who says we musn’t be afraid to have the conversation.



ALICE TALKS MENTAL HEALTH Television anthropologist and biologist Professor Alice Roberts is presenting the first in a series of special Life Matters podcasts brought to your living room by the Zero Suicide Alliance.


he academic, writer and broadcaster is a familiar face, as part of the BBC series Coast and Channel 4s Time Team. In the first podcast she reveals how her interest in mental health stems from her own experience of depression. It features a Bolton barber who offers a listening ear to clients who open up about personal issues, and hears how soaps like Hollyoaks are raising awareness of male suicide. To listen to the podcast go to: zerosuicidealliance.com


A leading UK events organisation is joining the campaign to tackle the potentially lethal effect of stigmatising language around mental health.


orporate Entertainment Professionals provides entertainment for corporate hospitality events. Following talks with the Zero Suicide Alliance and Mersey Care, the company is aiming to lead the way in sensitising marketing language and encouraging other agencies to do the same. They plan to remove acts with mental health connotations, such as a straitjacketed ‘patient’ who scares guests at events. And they’re renaming acts such as ‘Crazy Scientist’, advising clients against using ‘Psycho Ward’ and ‘Insane Asylum’ themes, and suggesting alternative themes. Joe Rafferty chairman of ZSA said: “I applaud CEP for the lead they are taking in helping to set the standards in their industry. Quite often the use of stigmatising

language used isn’t even intentional and sometimes it’s down to a lack of education, but we do know that by perpetuating existing stereotypes alienates those who need help and stops them from reaching out.” Owners Samantha Fellowes and Daisy Stapley-Bunten have also become ZSA members and are taking their suicide prevention training. Daisy, CEP’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “It’s important to say that the intention of this campaign isn’t to assign blame to the entertainment industry for past language used, but rather to encourage fellow agencies to follow suit and disrupt the status quo. I’m sure that together we can fight mental health stigma and we’re so honoured to be heading this initiative alongside the ZSA and Mersey Care.”


SUICIDE QUESTION Ben Harris is 38. He knows what it’s like to feel suicidal. He also knows that by talking and getting help it can get better. Here’s his story…

I’d struggled with my mental health since my twenties, but I thought it was just my quirky ways so I didn’t speak about it. I didn’t know I was entering a crisis. My family did. They tried to help but they didn’t know how to.

Looking back, when I thought about suicide it was to get some relief that there might be an end to the mental anguish. It was like being in a tunnel with no light at the end. I didn’t want to hurt my family and my partner but I felt they’d be better off without me.

I thought a lot about death and how to end my life. I didn’t want to die, I just wanted what was to make sense of what was going on in my head – and I wanted it to end.

I’d been with Nevean for 11 years. It must have been so difficult for her and my parents. The more I opened up to professionals the more I could see little chunks of hope.

My partner Nevean says I looked vacant back then. My parents say I was just a shell. I became psychotic. I thought people could read my mind, that I was getting signals from the TV to take my life. I started to self harm.

I still have bad times, but where before it would knock me back for years, I’m able talk openly without fear of repercussion. I’ve realised I don’t have to skirt round the issue to those closest to me.

It wasn’t till I went to my GP five years ago that I lifted the lid on 20 years of silence. I went into a mental health unit and then into the early intervention service, where I started working with a psychologist Diane Griffiths. She rolled up her sleeves and got into the root of the problem. She was amazing; she helped me tackle my thoughts and feelings. For two years after that I was still self harming, but then I know it was a way of developing a tolerance to unpleasant feelings as I worked on being myself.

If you think someone is suicidal ask, in a matter of fact way. It won’t make them any more likely to do it, but they’ll be glad you’ve asked and started the conversation I waited so long to have. •

You can view Ben’s full story at Zero Suicide Alliance YouTube channel

As COVID-19 cases rise and the pandemic continues to increase demand for mental health services across the country, the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA) calls for determined action.


SA’s new Step Up module is designed to give people the skills required to identify and reach out to someone whose mental health may be suffering. Founder member of the Alliance, Joe Rafferty, explains: “The pandemic has placed a great strain on mental health services. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has said that their members are seeing an alarming rise in its patients needing urgent and emergency care and they forecast the arrival of what they call a ‘tsunami’ of mental illness. “Over 1.3 million people have already accessed our original ZSA suicide awareness training and we hope that many more will now benefit and be better equipped to help save a life with the addition of our COVID-19 specific Step Up training package.”

SAVE A LIFE TAKE THE TRAINING at zerosuicidealliance.com 27

Fear may come across as disruptive behaviour.


TESTING TIME It’s always a worry for parents when kids and young people start a new school or college year – how will they cope? Will they settle?


SIGNS TO This time round it’s been ‘how will they be after six months at home’?

Restauranteur Penny’s son is five years old. She tried to keep life as normal as possible and reassure him. “I would talk to him about the virus and encourage him to wash his hands, but he kept talking about it as a monster that was going around eating people.” Carol Jones leads a team of school nurses who work with schools and families across Liverpool. She’s a firm advocate of schools re-opening safely. “Schools are the place that maintains support structure and balance for children and people. They give the social interaction that’s been missing all this time”. But she urges parents to watch for tell tale signs of distress.

“Children can struggle to express their emotions. A younger child may not know what’s making them sad, or scared. Fear may come across as disruptive behaviour, we need to keep an eye on them.”

LOOK OUT FOR • Your child is more upset or finding it hard to manage their emotions • They may appear anxious or distressed

There are many reasons why children of any age might react badly, says Carol.

• Increasing trouble with sleeping and eating

“They may not adapt well to new rules. They may have had a great time at home and not want it to end, or they may have had tension at home. Perhaps a parent lost their job, or was working from home with all the difficulties that can bring.

• Appearing low in mood, withdrawn or tearful

“We’ve all had to change, children need time to do the same and we need to support them.”

If you’re worried about how your child is coping, trust your instinct and reach out for help. Contact your GP, your child’s school or NHS mental health services.

Watch for telltale signs of distress. 28

Carol Jones school nurse lead for Liverpool.

• Reporting worried or negative thoughts about themselves or their future • For younger children, there may be more bedwetting.

Source: NHS South Sefton Clinical Commissioning Group and Southport and Formby Clinical Commissioning Group.





sychologists Bettina Hohnen and Jane Gilmour, writing in the Guardian, suggest parents create predictability by marking guaranteed events such as sports clubs or a family film night on a schedule or having a regular family mealtime. Maintaining kind but firm boundaries, particularly around sleep and technology, is another way of signalling predictability.

Putting that into a recognisable framework means children will use existing coping strategies. Always answer their questions honestly or you risk losing their trust and the world will feel more uncertain for them, but use broad ideas for young children. It’s Okay to say you don’t know the answer.

The world outside might change; there may even be another lockdown so talk about that eventuality as a nuisance rather than a calamity. Use familiar contexts to explain these unfamiliar events. If there is a tummy bug going around, school rules change and the same is true for a COVID-19 outbreak.

It’s OK to say you don’t know the answer.

GET HELP AND ADVICE Find out more •

The NSPCC offers advice on going back to school: nspcc.org.uk/coronavirus

Childline call 0800 1111

The Samaritans call 116 123

YoungMinds Crisis Messenger: text YM to 85258

Papyrus Hopeline UK suicide prevention helpline: call 0800 068 4141 or text 07860 039967

The Mix a support service for young people. You can talk with the online community, on social, or through the confidential helpline or our counselling service. Call 0808 808 4994 (Sunday to Friday, 2pm to 11pm)

If you identify as male, you can call the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm to midnight, every day).




DISCRIMINATE EITHER... As flu season approaches the lead nurse co-ordinating Mersey Care’s staff vaccination programme is urging people to take flu seriously. Modern Matron and Mersey Care Lead for Flu Joanne Scoltock says “flu doesn’t discriminate”.

Like Covid people with long term health conditions are more vulnerable, and being young, fit and healthy doesn’t mean you won’t contract flu.” While most people will make a good recovery from flu, there is a risk that some will develop complications such as pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis and encephalitis, which is most serious in very young children. “This winter, more than ever, we need to make sure we are protected against flu’ says Joanne.

FLU VACCINATION IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE: • if you’re at higher risk from coronavirus, you’re also more at risk of problems from flu • if you get flu and coronavirus at the same time, research shows you’re more likely to be seriously ill • it’ll help to reduce pressure on the NHS and social care staff who may be dealing with coronavirus. If you’ve had COVID-19, it’s safe to have the flu vaccine.


“Flu can be serious if not fatal especially in older people, those with underlying health conditions and very young children. The best line of defence is to have the vaccine. It protects you and reduces the risk of transmission to others, for example, your loved ones and the people we care for in our services. We’ve worked so hard over the past six months to protect ourselves, our families and those we care for against the COVID-19 virus and gratitude for this has been shown to

the NHS by the nation’s clapping. So please take flu as serious this winter and get the vaccine.”

WHAT SIDE EFFECTS? “It’s a myth that the flu vaccine can give you flu” says Joanne. “The influenza vaccines offered in the UK are inactivated and do not contain live viruses.” For more information go to nhs.uk



Changes have been made to make sure it’s safe for you to have the flu vaccine at GP surgeries and pharmacies. These changes include social distancing, hand washing and wearing protective equipment. It’s important to go to your appointments unless you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus. Source: nhs.uk

WHO IS ELIGIBLE? The flu vaccine is given to people who: • are 65 and over (including those who will be 65 by 31 March 2021) • have certain health conditions • are pregnant • are in long stay residential care • receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick • live with someone who’s at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list) • frontline health or social care workers.

You can have the NHS flu vaccine at: • your GP surgery • a pharmacy offering the service • your midwifery service if you’re pregnant.

If you’re aged 50 to 64 and have a health condition that means you’re more at risk from flu, you should get your flu vaccine as soon as possible. Other 50 to 64 year olds should be contacted about a flu vaccine later in the year.

The flu virus kills thousands every year. The flu vaccine is the best protection for you and those around you.


Ask your pharmacist or GP if you’re eligible.




Leila Saeed recalls being taught to cook by her mother in law in Qatar. “She showed me this amazing recipe and I thought ‘that’s Scouse!”

Health link worker Leila was born in Liverpool but returned to her family’s home country of Yemen when she was 13. She recalls the real sense of freedom in the countryside where they lived. “It was a culture shock but I was sad to leave. It was such a beautiful country.” Her Arab Scouse works well in a slow cooker, but she says ‘the magic happens’ when it’s cooked in stages. The dish is so versatile, so you can choose whatever veg is in season, and even add pickled cabbage and Worcester sauce to stay true to the authentic Scouse dish.”



750g lamb shoulder or leg, cut into chunky pieces, fat removed (ask the butcher to do this for you) 4 tbsp olive oil 1 large onion 4 carrots (approx. 350g) cut into chunks 250ml lamb stock (Knorr stock cubes work best) 500g potatoes 1 courgette sliced large Peppers each: red, green and yellow, sliced 200g trimmed green beans 3 cloves of crushed garlic 1 sticks of cinnamon (if desired) Half an aubergine sliced Small tin chopped tomatoes 1 tsp tomato puree Spices: 1 tsp Ras AlHanout, half tsp Cumin, half tbsp turmeric Secret ingredient: 2 tbsp red chilli pesto Salt and pepper to season Enough water to cover the meat, (approx 200ml) Garnish: fresh parsley and coriander

Season meat well with salt and pepper.

• Sauté onion, garlic and carrots until brown • Add seasoned meat and continue until sealed and slightly brown. Add in spices and cinnamon and continue to sauté and stir occasionally • When the lamb is fully coated with spices add the tomato puree and red chilli pesto, give a stir for 30 secs then add the tin of chopped tomatoes and stir in • The dish should have plenty of liquid, but you can add water so just about covers the meat (not too much, it will be cooking on a low heat so will retain moisture). Let the contents ‘sweat’ for a good 90 minutes to two hours (more if needed) • When the meat is almost tender throw in the vegetables. Don’t worry if they’re not covered at first, they’ll eventually sink into the pot. Cook until vegetables are ready • Remove lid, serve and enjoy!

TIPS • To achieve the best taste prepare and cook the day before you would like to serve the dish, and refrigerate once it’s cooled after cooking • The spices will sink into the meat and vegetables, so don’t over spice or you‘ll end up with a curry • Ensure you cook in a good air tight pot, to allow ingredients to cook in the steam.





DOWN It’s the question on everybody’s lips – literally. How do you get rid of the lockdown load? Jackie Rankin asks the experts.


y lockdown weight gain came by stealth. First it was mid morning tea cakes and milky coffee, then a hearty lunch (because it was lockdown so we deserved a bit of TLC – didn’t we?) Afternoon tea and biscuits would be brought to my home office by my furloughed other half. There was a smidgeon of self entitlement. After all we weren’t going on our French holiday…in fact we weren’t going anywhere for more than an hour. Then the rules relaxed. We could go out. Eat out. Help out. We’d be doing something to get the country back on its feet – who could refuse? Not me. But as with red wine, croissants and moules frites, this indulgence has manifested itself by the pound. I knew it was happening – but so was so much else. It was good while it lasted, but all good things come to an end. So I asked the experts, how DO you lose the lockdown load? Sian O’Dell is a community dietitian in Liverpool. “When the first lockdown came our lives were turned completely upside down and so were our meal patterns. Before we’d have breakfast, go to work, have lunch, then eat an evening meal. Now we could eat what we liked, when we liked. “Food became a crutch to stave off isolation and boredom. Even as we worked we could grab a snack and carry on. If we felt peckish we knew what was in the cupboards. Cafes were closed so we made sumptuous meals at home. We yearned for the social aspect of food.”


Specialist diabetic dietitian Amy Croft has empathy for those battling lockdown weight gain. “I was just the same; it’s so tempting when you know you can eat anytime.”

It’s true. At home we’d have discussions with friends during virtual quiz nights about the intricacies of our interval nibbles (it brought out my competitive streak – would my tapas outdo my friend’s sushi?) Speaking to others it seems few waistlines have been spared from this culinary laissez faire.

Many of her patients have been shielding. Some have used the time to change their eating habits for the better, while others have found it more challenging. Her concern is that people may eat for comfort but feel shame and guilt afterwards.

So what’s the answer? Don’t panic says Sian; this is similar to festive weight. You can get back to normal.

“I tell them we’re in a pandemic – it’s OK. We should see the past few months as a period in life rather than a problem for the future.

Food became a crutch to stave off isolation and boredom.

full of fibre and will keep you full for longer. And drink water, people don’t realise how important it is to feeling well.” The road back from weight gain may feel long and winding… but it’s not as bumpy as we think.

“I had a patient who loved cake and said she couldn’t give it up. That’s fine. We shouldn’t obsess over food and calories; it has to be for enjoyment too. If most of your diet is balanced, with plenty of vegetables and protein, a bit of cake is ok.”

“Start off by walking a bit more. We were much more sedentary in lockdown, so even ten minutes brisk walking will see a difference.



HUNGRY OR HANGRY? How we feel affects what we eat. Stressful situations can spark a craving for sweet or fatty foods. How can we get past that?

“Don’t diet strictly. Having a good relationship with food is important. It shouldn’t be about good and bad foods, the experience should be enjoyable. Try to eat as healthily as you can. Think more about what you’re eating, try to include five fruit and veg in meals. But have little things you enjoy too.”

Sian O’Dell suggests we ask ourselves ‘‘Am I actually hungry or am I comfort eating?’ “If you crave a chocolate bar try a low calorie chocolate drink, to get the same effect.” Is there a Holy Grail food? No says Amy, but opting for healthier versions of any food will always help. “If you are eating rice, pasta or bread, for example, always opt for wholegrain, it’s

Dietitians Sian O'Dell and Amy Croft.

PUT YOUR WORRIES ON THE TABLE Stress increases cortisol (a hormone) levels in the blood which can trigger fat storage around the abdomen and organs. Look for a stressbuster like exercise or a hobby. If you’re eating because you’re anxious you may benefit from talking therapies to find the root of the problem. Talk Liverpool offers group sessions for Liverpool residents

How we feel affects what we eat.

or those aged 16 or over and registered with a Liverpool GP. talkliverpool.nhs.uk •

The British Heart Foundation has advice on healthy eating: bhf.org.uk

Our experts recommend: BBC Good Food for a range of recipes using ingredients you like. bbcgoodfood.com.

Learn what a portion size is – measure it out once and you’ll know for next time

Have a portion of fruit with your breakfast

Pair protein and fibre as a snack, such as veggie sticks and dips like hummus or cucumber and yoghurt

Do an activity to use energy; walking, gardening, swimming or housework all help

Curb the cravings – read a book, watch television, phone a friend

Have something that mimics the taste of your craving. If it’s a chocolate bar, have a hot chocolate instead

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep; we can make unhealthy food choices when our energy levels are low.


Help yourself – our self help guide on food for thought can be read online, downloaded or watched as a video.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT Support for you





Who would have thought it would be the must have accessory of 2020?

JO HENWOOD ‘A plain one for every day and a posh one for going out,’ he said. We weren’t discussing handbags, watches or even phone covers – my husband and I were talking masks.


or a man whose fashion sense usually stretches to buying a Ted Baker T-shirt from T K Maxx, his foray to the shops ahead of the mask wearing deadline had resulted in a choice. One plain black neoprene offering from a high street pharmacy and a paisley blue and white affair, with integral filter pocket, from an independent shop which usually specialises in dream catchers. Who would have thought, this time last year, that the 2020 must have accessory would be the face mask? Whether you choose disposable, designer cotton or homemade chic, since 24 July everyone entering a shop in England has had to wear a face covering, unless there is a medical reason not to or you are under the age of 11. I shunned the disposable option based on comfort and instead took straight to my sewing machine in search of the unique. Old shirts, handkerchiefs, even an old petticoat have been transformed, thanks to YouTube videos, into masks to match every outfit. I have fiddled with elastic, lengthened and then shortened the pattern, included nose clips (the plastic seal from packets of coffee), darts, folds and lining before settling on my favourite design, which has a seam up the middle.


My daughter asked if I could make her a silk one along the lines of those being offered for £25 a piece by a posh high street outfitters. I pointed out that my silk remnants all had a fairly open weave which could quite easily let the COVID-19 virus in and out and reminded her of the real reason we were wearing them.

I shunned the disposable option based on comfort. But then, a bombshell was dropped. An old school friend asked where we might find a mask with the Welsh flag on it. We both hail from South Wales, where masks are not compulsory, but now live in England. I rang around material shops in North Wales, searched on eBay and even considered adapting a dog harness I found in Mold market until I eventually found what I was looking for on a swimwear website. In terms of matching my outfits, I may have to wait until St David’s Day next March for it to really work but, for now, I proudly sport my heritage when out shopping and it makes people smile. At least I think that’s what they are doing – it’s hard to know behind the mask.

This year will go down in the history as one that saw a deadly pandemic grip the planet. Britain could be heading for second lockdown as across the country cases of coronavirus continue to spiral upwards. But what would this mean for our economy? Is our only choice between health and wealth? MC Magazine speaks to three experts.






CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF MERSEY CARE, ONE OF THE COUNTRY’S LEADING MENTAL AND COMMUNITY HEALTH NHS TRUSTS. COVID-19 is not just a hazard to our health it’s also divisive. Despite a concerning increase in cases, around the country people have demonstrated against restrictions which they see as impositions on freedom. Many of us are clear that this is a serious disease. Most of us get the need to take precautions, wear masks, wash hands and safe distance. Do things that would have been unthinkably awkward less than a year ago. But apparently for some the concern is that the “cure” of lockdown is worse than the disease. And there appears to be an increasingly vocal group who don’t believe COVID-19 exists at all. Looking at recent news reports you could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the only thing that unites this country at the moment is the desire for this terrible virus to go away. The truth is COVID-19 is a real and present danger so we must give priority to staying safe. Mask wearing, hand hygiene, flu vaccination and careful distancing

are not impositions on freedom but are part of the armoury of simple tools to help us keep the NHS open while maintaining our economy. Far from being impositions they are the real stuff of social cohesion. Without our concerted efforts we do run the risk of falling into that binary, ‘one thing or the other’ trap; of thinking that our only choice is ‘health or wealth’. But health and wealth are not separate they’re linked – there is a strong relationship between income and wellbeing. Studies show that job insecurity and unemployment have a negative impact on health; particularly on mental health and the hardest hit are usually the poorest, people with long term, chronic conditions and those who care for them. So it goes without saying that NHS services must be safely accessible; but as we work to bring this virus under control we need to ensure that we don’t do so at the cost of a health enhancing economy.



Coronavirus spreads quickly and easily. One person with COVID-19 can unwittingly infect many others. So it’s clear to me that we need to take a whole population approach to preventing the spread of Covid further. We can’t do this just by protecting the most vulnerable members of our society. You can’t segment whole populations that easily. And whilst it’s true that COVID-19 affects some people worse than others it can and does affect everybody and some are living with the after effects of Covid (Long Covid) for months afterwards. People don’t just exist in their own bubble, we all have friends, family, loved ones and work responsibilities that very easily cross into vulnerable groups.


This is why health and the economy go hand in hand. If people are fit and healthy, the economy can be fit and healthy. I would say they are not really different things, just two sides of the same coin. And if we are to truly make a difference, we must take a wellbeing economics approach, putting wellbeing at the heart of our decision making, in order that we end up with a fair, inclusive economy that looks after everybody and results in improved health and wealth for everyone. We must work together to truly make a difference, to protect individuals, communities and the economy.

People don’t just exist in their own bubble.

For some the concern is that the ‘cure’ of lockdown is worse than the disease.


The pandemic is putting huge money pressures on many parts of business and I’ve seen the damaging effects that can follow in the wake of financial distress. Some industries have ceased operations altogether and others will only be able to emerge very slowly from this emergency. As Government support measures wind down it’s becoming clear that many companies will have difficult decisions to make. The impact here will be more than fiscal. In my experience companies can be much more than just places of work – some are like families and when that company, that family, goes out of business there can be a tangible sense of bereavement. Not just for the loss of a livelihood, as vital as that is, but for workers

who suddenly find themselves redundant it can be traumatic. There can be a real loss of identity – self-worth even. You don’t have to be a medic to see how that can impact on a person’s health. That’s why we need to act now. To find different ways of working to ensure that staff and customers see businesses as being safe places to be. Communications is key. The public and private sectors must talk to each other; to understand the science better and agree what they should be doing to stay safe and thrive. My call to colleagues in health is work with the private sector now and not wait until companies are on the brink of collapse. I understand that there’s a fine line to walk between health and wealth but we are going to have to walk it together if we want to keep a viable and healthy economy for the benefit of us all.

Companies can be much more than just places of work – some are like families.


Liverpool City Council led the way with its Without Walls initiative to help the hospitality sector redesign outdoor spaces. As part of the £450,000 plan, Bold St and parts of Castle St were pedestrianised and grants were made available.

ALL The government has announced a new three-tier system for setting coronavirus rules in England.

CHANGE In a business which relies on close contact between customers and staff, he was delighted to watch his online business go ‘through the roof’ with people ordering roastery coffee for their homes.

This will result in local lockdowns but what will it mean for local economies and business? Will we see more empty chairs at empty tables? Jo Henwood spoke to entrepreneurs who are making a habit of taking a deep breath, preparing for the unknown and adapting.


JACK BREWITT Managing director of 92 Degrees Coffee Managing director Jack Brewitt doesn’t have ‘millions in the bank’, but he’d promised to keep paying staff from his four coffee stores and roaster, so he was overjoyed at the furlough scheme.

“I was asked to deliver some beans to a customer’s house. They opened the window and shouted ‘we love you and can’t wait for you to be back open! I’m so grateful for the support we’ve had.” Jack admits that the going has been tough. “We’re minimising spending; our priority is to ensure our team is happy.” 92degrees.coffee



Manager Kasbah, Bold Street, Liverpool When Penny opened the doors of Kasbah after lockdown there was a buzz she says she has never felt before. They may be down to half capacity but people feel safer. “We’ve never been so busy! We worked really hard to keep the restaurant welcoming and relaxing, while maintaining all the social distancing and sanitation rules.”

ROB WEBB Owner and managing director of VooDou Salon, Bold Street, Liverpool VooDou Salon has survived two major recessions since Rob opened in the 70’s at just 18 years old. But lockdown was something completely different. “We shut our doors not knowing when it would end,” said Rob. When the announcement came that hairdressers could reopen he was already ahead of the game. “We work with a great marketing company and we started selling advanced booking vouchers, even before we knew the exact date of reopening. We had everyone’s details and were able to contact them straight away.” He was also watching safety measures taken by European salons. And to ease the journey back for both clients and staff Rob began cutting and styling again after a 20 year break. “We’ve been here 44 years – we’re not planning on going anywhere soon.”

She hasn’t forgotten the impact, both on her own mental health - she’s worked since she was 16 and found isolation difficult (although she enjoyed seeing more of her husband and five year old son) and concerns for her 20 staff, some of whom had family in Italy and Spain at the height of the pandemic. Penny is positive but is aware more than ever how quickly things can change. “The difficult thing is you can’t make a plan,” she says. kasbahcafebazaar.co.uk


Thousands took advantage of the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme to kickstart the economy.

Photo Lizzie Churchill Photography.

SOPHIE WILLIAMS “It’s been a worrying time but it forced me to think outside the box. I’ve noticed a wave of exciting new ideas and entrepreneurship in the creative industries”... artist Sophie Williams, who was inspired by the ‘extraordinary’ work of the NHS to create a range of rainbow coloured portraits and hand finished T-shirts. She’s donating 10% of purchases to the NHS. sophiewilliamsart.com

CHARLIE TOMLINSON Owner at Wild Root When Charlie’s plan to open a vegan restaurant in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle were scuppered the Fine Art graduate went back to basics and set about establishing a delivery service of fresh, healthy plant based food – all from her mum’s kitchen! “I had always wanted to offer a delivery service, so I threw myself straight into deliveries, and it just took off,” said Charlie, 25. “People told me they were struggling to get hold of fresh options. Some were buying graze boxes as gifts for people they couldn’t get to see. It was a great test-bed for the café – I could see which recipes worked, what people liked and what they were ordering again.” She was inspired by travels as a student. Words like kraut, kimchi and kombucha roll off the tongue as she experiments with fermentation, creative salads, curries and vegan cheeses – a trial outing on a market stall sold 200 cheeses in a day! “I love playing with flavours. When I open my café I’ll have vegan cheese boards and graze plates to enjoy with a glass of wine.” Charlie hopes to open her café by the end of the year. Be inspired at wildroot.cafe. Delivery is available in the wider Liverpool area.



My days have been quite different to normal during the past few months. I’m one of the occupational therapists supporting 32 men with mental health issues on two low secure wards.


outine is important for them, so is the sense of freedom, to go out into the community as part of preparation for when they leave us. During lockdown that all stopped. They were unable to see their families. For six months their world was the ward and their bedroom. We had to think quickly so they didn’t lose their sense of purpose and become demotivated, which could set back all the progress they’ve worked hard to achieve. It’s been challenging – but we’ve had great fun! The wards couldn’t mix so everything was duplicated. Patients run their own breakfast club, but during lockdown we cooked breakfast for them and served it to the wards – everyone was up bright and early without prompting – now that’s not the norm! We had debates, quizzes, film nights – we even had a VE day street party on each ward. We talked a lot about how we’d remember this period of our lives – and decided to create our own time capsule. Our technical instructor Dave Hughes made a wooden container for each of the two wards. We put in the obvious things like masks, hand sanitiser and a hand washing sign. Some men donated personal items such as favourite CDs, others wrote messages. There was a real sense of excitement at being able to contribute to history. One man insisted on putting a teapot and teabag so whoever opened the capsule could have a cuppa while discovering the artefacts.

Helen Baxendale



It’s changed our relationships for the better. Maybe for the first time they saw us as human beings rather than staff. We were vulnerable just like them. Yes we’ve all slipped back into our old ways a little, but there’s a sense that we’ve shared an experience…

To find out more about working at Mersey Care go to our YouTube channel. For job opportunities visit jobs.merseycare.nhs.uk



Appointed Governor I’m very lucky. I’ve enjoyed a wonderful career in local government, education and health. As a former chief executive, chairman and director I’ve met so many people and have great memories.


y office door was always open. My view was that I might sit at the top, but the staff were the people who mattered – and you can learn so much about what’s going on over a cup of tea!

I agree we need to keep changing to improve, but what should always be at the heart of this is how much we value the people who put that change into practice. We have to care for our staff, be fair, and be approachable so they in turn do a good job.

I may have been born the year the NHS was founded, but I’m still excited to be involved in developments to our services. I only remember my age when I’m climbing stairs!

I’m an accountant by background and used to dealing with issues on a large scale. I understand the stresses and strains of running an organisation like Mersey Care, but I’m not blind to the fact that as governors we should hold the board to account.

A lot has changed within the NHS between generations, including people’s expectations. My children see themselves as consumers of health services.


I’ve been made welcome at Mersey Care. I love how Scousers and Lancashire folk get


We have recently elected seven new governors. Thanks to the members who casted their vote. If you would like to find out more about what a governor role involves and the results of the election, this information can be found on our website www.merseycare.nhs.uk/council-of-governors

As governors we hold the board to account. on so well. There’s the same Northern ‘no nonsense let’s get on with it’ attitude. I’m honoured to be a governor. This trust has a good reputation, it’s going places. It’s a good place to be…

To learn more about our Council of Governors, go to merseycare.nhs.uk

Find out more about our membership and governors at: Website: merseycare.nhs.uk. Phone: 0151 471 2303 or 0151 473 2778 Email: membership@merseycare.nhs.uk Write to: Alison Bacon, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, V7 Building, Kings Business Park, Prescot, Liverpool L34 1PJ.


We must keep on protecting each other. HANDS FACE


Contact details Got some news you’d like to share? Contact us at the following address.


Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, V7 Building, Kings Business Park, Prescot, Merseyside L34 1PJ Telephone: 0151 473 0303 Email: communications@merseycare.nhs.uk


MC MAGAZINE is published by Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and produced by the communications team, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, V7 Building, Kings Business Park, Prescot, Merseyside L34 1PJ T: 0151 473 0303 E: communications@merseycare.nhs.uk W: merseycare.nhs.uk. MC MAGAZINE is available in other formats on request.

Profile for Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust

MC Magazine - Autumn 2020