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Striving for perfect care and a just culture

Mersey Care’s chief executive Joe Rafferty freely shared Mersey Care’s transformation in a heartfelt presentation on a zero suicide approach and how values, compassion and respect were brought to life during an organisational culture change.

Improving quality and safety, reducing costs and coping with increased demand were the drivers for Mersey Care NHS Trust to embark on a journey to achieve ‘perfect’ care and a ‘just’ culture five years ago.

Extensive consultation with hundreds of staff resulted in the decision to aspire to zero suicide as opposed to a low percentage target. Joe shared Mersey Care’s culture change journey to achieve the ambition of zero suicide of consumers within the trust’s care.

Joe used the simple analogy of taking a plane to reach a destination. We don’t consider that we may or may not get there. Our expectation is that the success of our flight landing or taking off is 100%. So, it should be with safe care – our target should be 100% success and least restrictive practices at all times. Striving for excellence, not mediocrity.

He then shared the impact a young woman’s personal story had on why he wanted to reduce restrictive practices such as restraint and seclusion. The woman had experienced significant physical abuse during her childhood. Being restrained within the health system meant she experienced flashbacks to her six-year-old self being controlled by adult’s hands. This retraumatised her. Joe in his transformation of the services encouraged many service users to share this experience openly to help staff understand what they needed to improve on.

As Joe shared in Christchurch, the zero suicide movement is becoming a global phenomenon. The Canterbury District Health Board has also adopted it. Te Pou was a sponsor at the Christchurch workshop where Joe spoke.