With the help of Liverpool City Region Enterprise Hub via The Women’s Organisation, Elsie Hayford is tackling injustices and inequities in healthcare in the UK and overseas. Tony McDonough reports
Striking a balance between ‘making a difference’ in the world, and still being able to pay the bills, is a goal so many of us aspire towards.
Elsie Hayford has discovered what she calls that “sweet spot”. A lawyer by profession Elsie is building a successful business that tackles injustices and inequities in healthcare systems both in the UK and overseas.
She launched Liverpool-based Lamèsè in 2019, having already taken the plunge into self-employment some years earlier. The idea for working for herself first began to germinate after she attended a seminar at Liverpool-based social enterprise, The Women’s Organisation, a decade ago.
Lamèsè now works with clients both in the UK and overseas. Every country has legislation governing its health services and systems. However, laws don’t always translate into good practice on the ground. Elsie’s know-how and expertise are applied to ensure those laws are implemented for the benefit of as many people as possible.
“In many parts of the world, and sometimes here in the UK, the laws that exist to ensure healthcare is accessible to all aren’t always properly implemented,” she explained. “Some countries do not have a properly developed legal framework which supports health systems to ensure law and policy works well in practice.”
Elsie was born in Russia and was raised in both Ghana and Liverpool. In 2010 she gained her law degree from the University of Liverpool and, over the past few years, has built up an impressive CV.
As a mentee within the Liverpool Law School’s mentoring scheme, she had the opportunity to gain work experience at two of Merseyside best-known law firms – Hill Dickinson and Silverbeck Rymer.
Subsequently, she worked in compliance at Marks & Spencer Bank in Chester and as an accounts consultant at Barclays Bank. Elsie also worked at other northern law firms and, in 2014, shadowed and assisted Patrick Roche QC at the inquests into the Hillsborough disaster in Warrington.
She also became a director of the Ghana-UK mental health alliance and, over the past few years, has developed a passion for global health which eventually led her to obtain a Master of Laws in Global Health Law from Georgetown University, Washington DC in 2016. While in the US capital she also carried out legal research into public health in a number of African countries while working as an associate for Forzley & Associates.
Setting out on her self-employed journey around five years ago, Elsie secured several consulting contracts with health companies such as Livful Inc, and global health organisations such as The Global Health Advocacy Incubator and The O’Neill Institute of National and Global Health Law. It was here she worked on World Health Organisation (WHO), Lancet and Global Health Security Agenda projects.
“I had planned to continue working as a sole trader,” said Elsie. “But it became clear to me that people prefer working with a company than with an individual, so I set up Lamèsè last year with the help of The Women’s Organisation and the Enterprise Hub.
“The idea of setting up my own company was quite daunting at first but after conversations with Huda Mamoun, a senior business advisor at The Women’s Organisation, my mind began to expand and I started to think bigger. It was scary at first but those meetings with Huda really helped me build my confidence.”
Elsie is the sole director of Lamèsè, which translates to ‘good health’ in Ghanaian language, Ewe. She has a subsidiary company set up in Ghana where she works with three other partners. Their current work in the country focuses on improving maternal healthcare with the goal of reducing deaths due to medical/and or systematic errors.
Early in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic began to shake the world. At the time of writing more than 1m people have died as a result of the virus, including almost 60,000 in the UK. Many COVID victims have been healthcare workers, exposed to heavy viral loads while treating patients.
Not surprisingly, Elsie’s skills and knowledge have been called upon in the midst of this worldwide crisis. Lamèsè has secured a contract with US global health organisation, Vital Strategies, to provide support as part of a global COVID legal response team.
It is working on legal protections for healthcare workers and the legal infrastructure required for emergency healthcare delivery globally. It involves advising ministry of health lawyers and writing guidelines for national policy-makers.
“With COVID-19, the whole world has been thrown into emergency response,” said Elsie. “Everything has happened so suddenly and so many loopholes that exist in healthcare systems have come to the fore.
“One of the things that it has exposed is the lack of legal protection for healthcare workers on the frontline of the pandemic. Doctors and nurses have indemnity insurance, but we need to work on how the law can be more effective in offering them more protection. If healthcare workers are not safe, then how can we ensure patients are safe?”
Elsie is already looking beyond the pandemic for the next challenges that Lamèsè can tackle. She has a particular interest in how the foster care system in the UK serves the health and welfare of children.
“Foster children is a particular area of interest for me,” she added. “It’s a subject I really want to look at in more detail. I also want to engage more with Liverpool and its business community. Getting involved in training young people is another area I’m keen to explore.
“At the time of completing my Masters of Law in Washington there were around 100 graduates (of the program since its inception in 2007) from around the world. Access to healthcare is a fundamental to the wellbeing of people across the world. So ensuring there are legal frameworks in place to ensure that happens is absolutely critical. We are filling an important gap.”
Looking ahead, Elsie sees the work of Lamèsè being split 50/50 between the UK and overseas. She said: “I’m excited about the future and very pleased with the support I have gained from The Women’s Organisation.
“Huda was a big help in pointing me to the right resources. She was also able to connect me with other women who were on the same journey as me. I found the training courses particularly useful – they broadened my perspective and simplified otherwise complex concepts.
“From the beginning of my legal career I have wanted to find a way to make a difference. And now, at last, I think I have found my sweet spot. There is a danger that working in the law can become more about making money than about justice. I believe I’ve reached a point where I am getting that balance right.”
If you are thinking of starting a business in the Liverpool city region or have a new business under three years old, you can speak to the Enterprise Hub team via firstname.lastname@example.org or 0151 706 8113. Enterprise Hub is part funded by European Regional Development Fund and is free to access.