Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust is leading a culture change in supporting colleagues when things don’t go as expected. The trust’s work has seen material differences for staff and how we care and this is being shared nationally working alongside academics and NHS leaders. Training programmes and resources are available, aimed at HR professionals and the wider public, and in 2020, a new free online course is being made available jointly with the Zero Suicide Alliance.

Mersey Care’s internal research found barriers to transparency included fear, blame and shame. Staff and staff side colleagues started to ask, quite rightfully, about a zero blame culture. That in itself was an indication that the trust had made a change in thinking as it is only by promoting openness and transparency that we will accelerate our rate of improvement.

Lead by the Board, the trust has learnt from established academic works, in particular by Professor Sidney Dekker, author of bestselling book ‘Just Culture’. We’ve looked at industries like airlines, nuclear technology, oil and exploration and some healthcare in the US, all of which go about their daily business knowing there is always an element of risk. There is a very poignant example of how difficult this move can be captured in the true story of “Sully”, made into a film starring Tom Hanks. It focuses on the pilot Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who famously made an emergency landing on the Hudson River in New York. His actions saved all the 155 passengers and crew. Despite being a national hero, he was later investigated by airline authorities.

Mersey Care’s work to embrace a Just and Learning Culture has centred on the desire to create an environment where staff feel supported and empowered to learn when things do not go as expected, rather than feeling blamed. This is a culture that instinctively asks in the case of an adverse event: “what was responsible, not who is responsible”. It is not fingerpointing and not blame-seeking. But it is not the same as an uncritically tolerant culture where anything goes – that would be as inexcusable as a blame culture.

For more information on Restoritive Just and Learning Culture, visit the Mersey Care website.

In this first module we tell the story of what happened in one NHS trust, Mersey Care. We look at how being a rules based organisation meant there was a lack of awareness of the psychological harm of some HR processes.

In this second module we acknowledge that mistakes can and will happen in the workplace, it is part of human nature. In this training we understand how creating a positive safety culture can promote an environment of learning, which in turn will reduce the likelihood of these mistakes happening again in the future.

In this third module we understand more about how a Just and Learning Culture can be achieved with Mersey Care and other organisations, with leadership playing a vital part. The Mersey Care Board of Directors, senior leaders and influencers answer your questions.

Respect and Civility has never been more important. Being polite, courteous and treating everyone with dignity and respect should be the norm not only Mersey Care, but in all workplaces. However, pressures on staff within and outside the workplace can lead to these values and every-day behaviours being lost.

This fourth module highlights the importance of these behaviours, equipping staff with the necessary confidence and tools to speak up if they witness something they think is not right #IWillSpeakUp. The training also gives examples of best practice, providing staff the opportunity to learn and apply these skills, as well as recognising all the great support and behaviours already demonstrated by staff.