Let’s talk up social care by Donna Briggs

As a director of a social care organisation, I all too often hear members of our staff team saying “I'm just a… cleaner, cook, healthcare assistant.”

 

What these humble people are doing is devaluing themselves. They have chosen to work in a profession that is grossly underfunded and undervalued. They genuinely cannot see the value and the importance in what they do, and they do it every day.

 

Very often these committed, kind and caring individuals are the only people a vulnerable person may see from one day to the next.

 

They are the light in the room, the smile on the face and the ray of sunshine for the people they care for and support, providing hope, compassion and care.

 

And then there is the support they provide for families and friends of the people they care for as they help them to cope with the illness or disability their loved one is battling day in day out.

 

It is important that we as a society value the care sector and its 1.48milllion employees who are committed to making life better for vulnerable people each and every day. Some even believe social care is seen as more of a domestic service.

 

(Read Jonathon Holmes article 'Care workers are woefully undervalued – we deserve respect' in the Guardian HERE )

 

I include the managers of the service, who very often can't take a break as they are on call 24/7 ready to respond should their team need them.

 

As we enter 2016, let’s make a commitment to place a value on our social care sector and its workforce, the unsung heroes from the manager to those who provide this invaluable lifeline of care on the frontline.

Let’s talk up social care.

 

Donna Briggs

Managing Director

Springhill Care Group

 

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A moving tribute to a lovely lady by Jakki Whitehead

Jakki Whitehead, Dementia Care Manager at Riversway Nursing Home in Bristol, tells of how resident Kathleen, who passed away earlier this year, touched the lives of people around her, in a moving tribute to a lovely lady.

 

How does a resident touch your soul?

 

Kathleen touched mine and Sarah’s. She was 92, alone, independent, had a weakness for the stronger stuff and a love of cats; one in particular, Salem, with super large paws.

 

Watching Kathleen approach the end of her life was a difficult process interrupted by pain and hallucinations. She was, however, clear about one thing: she wanted to be ‘buried at sea.’

 

As I mentioned she was alone with no family to carry out her wishes. I phoned the council to be told she did not have enough money for burial at sea; but my Mum’s ashes went off Clevedon Pier so I thought it worth exploring.

 

Ben, the crematorium official, was very nice, he asked us to wait two months after her death just in case any relative came forward but he said he thought our plan was acceptable.

 

Kathleen died and had her Catholic funeral in a crematorium and unexpectedly five carers from her last care home turned up; she was one to touch people’s souls. Kathleen was cremated with a picture of Salem.

 

After two months Sarah and I took Kathleen’s ashes to Clevedon Pier. We read her favourite poem, ‘Ode on the death of a favourite cat drowned in a tub of goldfishes’; emptied her ashes in the exact spot of my Mum’s memorial and watched them taken by the wind to the waves.

 

Finally, after emptying the last of her favourite tipple into the sea, we went for tea and cake in her memory.

 

Here’s a link to Kathleen’s favourite poem by Thomas Gray http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173567

 

Jakki Whitehead

Service Manager

Riversway Nursing Home 

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Customer service: at the heart of quality

In the second of a series of articles examining key issues within the care sector, Theresa Swan, Springhill Care Group’s learning and development manager, looks at customer service.

 

Effective customer service is held in great regard by all businesses, and those working in health and social care place a high priority on this vital aspect of their relationship with customers and the local community.

 

The Springhill Care Group is keenly aware that every person should expect a quality and person-centred service whilst living in a care facility. The element of customer service should be integral to that process.

 

The views of families, friends and potential and current residents are paramount to ensuring the provision of care is constantly meeting the needs of the people who use the service.

 

At Springhill we are aware of the partnership that this involves – all our efforts are centred on the provision of care which enables a person to live their life as fully as they are able to – with a dedicated and professional team who can offer support that is tailored to the individual.

 

Having served the people of Lancashire and Ribble Valley for over 30 years, we have discovered the intrinsic value of monitoring our performance to our customers in a variety of ways. Possibly the most effective of this is the feedback we receive from people who have experienced our services.

 

This ranges from those who have enjoyed a short break with us, a period of respite care, perhaps to provide a break for a home carer, during or after a period of illness, or when a family has been supported through a time of bereavement and loss.

 

A job well done

 

Our efforts to provide the best possible support, to a large and varied group of people within many sets of circumstances, are often rewarded with the most outstanding praise and gratitude for a ‘job well done’ and wonderful memories of times at Springhill. So many of our relatives speak about friendships forged forever, people who came as visitors becoming friends and continuing to share in the life of the home.

 

This is a most effective measure of customer service – many of the people who have benefited from the care and support offered at Springhill have been delighted to share their stories.

 

It is perhaps the greatest tribute to our customers that many wish to offer reassurance, through their own personal experience, to those who may be thinking about a care facility and feel at a loss to know how to begin the process, or, more importantly, how to feel supported if they have to make a decision about someone very dear to them.

 

We think it’s helpful to allow our customers to speak for themselves:

 

“I have had a wonderful time with you all at Springhill. During my stay I have improved in so many ways and feel a confidence in myself that I never expected to feel. Not only have you provided excellent support and care, but you have laughed and cried with me during these weeks of recovery. It has felt like I came into a family and I will be eternally grateful for your care and compassion.”

 

“We wanted to say a very big ‘thank you’ to all the staff for your love and care shown to our mum during her time with you at Springhill. As we spent more time with mum during her final illness it made us realise how much you had all become her extended family. It was very clear to us how much love she received from you all and we are so grateful.”

 

“We could not have coped without your help in the final days of mum’s illness. The personal touches and the time you all spent with her was unbelievable. You watched over her and understood how distressed we were, taking time to listen and talk with us. Your kindness will never be forgotten.”

 

“Your staff team are really excellent, they go beyond professionalism and really care about what they do. I’ve been humbled by the emotion expressed by many staff members at mum’s passing and would like to say that what really sets them apart is their kindness and compassion.”

 

“I must have visited around ten homes when looking for the ‘right’ place and Springhill stood head and shoulders above the rest. I would advise anyone who is considering care to visit Springhill and see the difference.”

 

“I have been receiving care for many years and having made the decision to move permanently to Springhill I have no regrets. I know I have made the right choice and this is now my home. I am treated as an individual, with respect and as a person in my own right. I live my life as independently as I can and know I have the support and care of staff when I need it.

 

“Some months ago I celebrated a special birthday and had a wonderful party – many of my relatives and friends came and they all said what a warm welcome they received when they came through the door!”

 

These reassuring and heart-warming accounts pay the greatest tribute to the individuals who make up the outstanding team, which is Springhill Care Home.

 

Dedication to a rigorous recruitment and selection process secures the high standard of worker who embodies the values of Springhill, and delivers an enviable quality service which is rooted in continuous learning and development.

 

A quality care home, for quality customer service.

 

Theresa Swan

 

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At the heart of social care

The importance of learning and skills in a modern care setting.

Many people reading this article will probably agree that care and support for the people who are the most vulnerable in our society should be provided by well trained and professional workers, who deliver high quality services across a range of needs.

Sadly, information in the public arena often highlights all that is failing within these services.

To deliver the standard of service we have come to expect requires a great deal of investment – both in resources and people – to ensure care is consistent, person-centred and meets the requirements of the Care Quality Commission and other agencies responsible for the commissioning of services.

Whilst there are many training opportunities for staff who work in the care sector, the vast majority of this cost has to be met by care home owners. The needs of people with dementia, end of life care, mobility and mental health concerns require staff to have specialist skills to equip them to meet these demands. The additional need for these skills are often not addressed because of the costs required to provide them.

 

Centre of learning

In response, the Springhill Care Group has developed a Learning Centre which is facilitated by a Nurse Educator.All our staff are recruited through a process of person centred values. Each individual recruited who shares these values can be successfully trained to provide safe, compassionate and skilled support.

Each person receives initial training in a dedicated suite where learning is face-to-face and interactive.   Lifelong learning continues through a programme of supervision and coaching.

Increasingly aware of the changing times and challenges for our staff, each person has an individual learning plan and is encouraged to develop their skills and talents through our learning pathway, providing  genuine opportunities for career progression.

All our support staff achieve Diploma qualifications in specialised areas of care. Those wishing to progress are identified, through learning and development, into substantive positions of responsibility, demonstrating a professional pathway which is the envy of the sector.

 

At the heart of our services

Many of our clients come to Springhill after a prolonged stay in hospital and have many complex needs which include enteral (assisted) feeding, catheter and stoma care, and, increasingly, end of life care.

These areas of acute need require specialism and knowledge as clients have become used to having an array of doctors, specialist nurses and other health professionals available to support them during their stay in hospital. It is vital that the client continues to have knowledgeable as well as compassionate support when transferring to a care facility.

At Springhill, people and their learning and development are at the heart of our services. Student nurses from the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Cumbria spend three monthly placements with us, sharing best practice and evidence-based learning, assisting in our approach towards modern research within a dynamic care environment. Many of the student nurses, after qualifying, apply for a nursing role at Springhill.

We also welcome foundation degree learners and other student placements throughout the year, continuing to attract to the sector those who wish to pursue a rewarding professional career. One of our local colleges has described our apprenticeship programme as ‘the most outstanding in the area.’

Springhill is proudly about to embark on its latest challenge to the nationwide nursing shortage by undertaking a programme of learning for a group of staff to become Assistant Practitioners – a new innovation which will equip some of our senior support staff to work alongside qualified nurses, sharing in many of their roles.

Recently appraised by Investors in People, who described Springhill Care as demonstrating ‘inspirational leadership’ in the care sector, we are preparing to launch a Springhill Leadership qualification which will be accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management this Spring, cascading this exciting development to external care managers in the autumn.

As the need increases for specialised and complex support, Springhill Care is at the forefront of learning – dedicated to ensuring an environment of knowledge and compassionate commitment to all who choose to use our services.

 

 

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The Challenges created by an Ageing Population in the UK

The Guardian Newspaper is having a debate on the challenges facing the country as the size of the ageing population grows significantly.  What follows is my personal contribution to the debate as posted on the Guardian Website.

As someone who is gradually moving into this cohort of 65+, and having worked professionally at the interface of health and social services in both public and the independent sectors, I despair of our political elite. 

For the last 30 years we have had various reports and commissions, but no political party has really tackled what is now heading up for a serious issue. The NHS is creaking under the strains of demand in the 21st Century - designed for acute care,70% of it is now dealing with chronic long term conditions - the majority in the older population. The last Langsley re-organisation was another shifting of the chairs on the Titanic and even some in government are now questioning the validity of this move. There needs to be a proper grown up national conversation about the role of the NHS and Social Care - how it is organised, and properly funded. 

The UK is not a poor country - it can spend billions of pounds on trident replacement, new aircraft carriers with no planes and defense in general yet it says it can't fund proper care and support for people who have worked hard to build a prosperous country. Ageism is rife in politics, the NHS, Social Services and society in general.

In the conversation people will need to decide whether we pay for these necessary services out of taxation or do people themselves have to contribute more on a means tested basis or a bit of both. On its own, private insurance is not going to provide the solution

Arguments about free TV licenses and Bus Passes are side shows given the scale of the gap that is emerging in demand and supply of health and social care. The bizarre situation of cutting social care budgets by 25% and then wondering why the NHS is over-run shows just how little joined-up thinking there is at the Department of Health and Government.

The Kings Fund, Demos and others have all published recent reports so we don't need more commissions, what we need is a political consensus on a way forward that everyone can sign up to. If we have a change of Government with Labour in power, we will face another re-organisation, merging health and social care commissioning, which again will divert attention from the real issues. 

I can only hope that the grey vote at the ballot box wakes up – although I don’t see any political party with polices that will begin to address the issues. 

In short we need a coherent and sustainable policy, if possible agreed by all parties, driven by a dedicated minister for older people. We need honesty about who will need to fund health and social care and to what extent. The 'reforms' about financing social care due in 2016 are a sham with the DH's own predictions indicating that only about 20% of people will get state support for their social care needs at home or in care homes - so as it stands, yes houses will need to be sold to pay for care fees!

Steve Newton 

Director of Quality and Compliance

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