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


Care and Compassion

The Chief Nursing Officer for England has launched the ‘6C’s’- an initiative for frontline staff who are caring for some of our country’s most vulnerable people.

The six enduring values and behaviours that underpin compassion in practice are defined as:

care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment.

Alongside these important values we see how vital it is that behaviour accompanies them – at Springhill Care Home we place great emphasis on this dual approach – otherwise compassion and care simply remain words rather than a lived experience for those receiving. This initiative is a nationwide attempt to prioritise safe and compassionate care in every setting, and whilst all of us would agree that these values should always be paramount, it enables us to remember that those who are delivering – our staff members, also need to feel valued and appreciated.

At Springhill we consistently work to ensure each member of our staff experiences, at a personal level, appreciation and care – whether this is through their professional learning and development, or in times of personal need when we need to go the extra mile to support someone who gives so much to our residents throughout the year.

At Springhill we often remind ourselves that a lot of work is unseen and not always appreciated, but the dedication and commitment of our staff is our most valuable asset. We are proud to proclaim that the ‘6C’s’ are alive and well in our midst!



Integrity, trust, kindness, dignity and respect – too much to ask?

Social Care services are rarely out of the media spotlight and occasionally we witness a highly charged and emotive event which seeks to highlight the worst possible mistreatment of our country’s most vulnerable people.

In a free and democratic society this is welcomed as an attempt towards transparency, integrity and truth to which any law abiding and compassionate citizen would wish to applaude.

The down side to this is that it also causes  fear and undermines confidence, creating a global sense that ALL our care and support services reflect this uncaring approach.

David Pearson,  President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has attempted to offer a balanced view to the Panorama programme (Wednesday 30 April 2014) which was seen by millions of viewers, many of whom will either be users of care services or families of people who are considering care options for their loved one or currently receiving services.

David Pearson reports: ‘this case emphasises the importance of vigilantly safeguarding  the wellbeing of residents, and of ensuring that whistleblowers are always carefully listened to and protected.  Panorama has again drawn attention to the importance of sound management, and investing in the training and supervision of social care staff’.

Safeguarding, listening, effective management, staff support and supervision are at the heart of providing high standards of care. 

Those of us who manage frontline services are acutely aware that our staff, as individuals and teams, deserve the best possible person-to-person support, with managers working alongside their workers to solve problems and create a culture where every member of staff recognises their manager by name and witnesses  their involvement in frontline practice as consistent in the everyday.   

At Springhill Care all our staff receive regular, high quality training and supervision which extends to regular forums for clinical and associated staff to have an on-going dialogue about our standards of care and how we can continually update and enhance our services.  This not only increases the professional delivery of care but enables staff teams to both feel and be involved in the service delivery –‘my name is on this’ gives a sense of ownership to everything we are involved in and a collective sense of responsibility and accountability. ‘Not on my watch’ is then embraced by all in the most positive sense.

Springhill Care strives to do this through its value-based services.  Our commitment to person centred care begins with our staff – they have a right to expect that they will be treated as an individual, known by name and acknowledged, praised and rewarded for their personal contribution to the team effort.  When this is visible staff experience a personal sense of value, not only for their contribution but for who they are.  In a world which often does not see the immense good our nurses and care staff are doing every day and night of the year, this is paramount for maintaining excellent standards of care and effective staff morale. 

Our core values, which guide our mission, begin with our staff and cascade through the care we offer at all levels, extending to our families and all we are in partnership with.   A climate of openness, which extends to a real inclusion of everyone’s contribution, including residents, families and our finely tuned processes of audit and evidence based practice, increases the checks and balances so integral to a service which is designed to serve those most vulnerable in our society.

At Springhill we are aware that we are achieving much success in our many innovative practises.  Delivering complex services certainly brings its challenges  - the need to keep our values at the forefront continues to be as important as ever!  



Sanctuary at Springhill

The word ‘Sanctuary’ has been used in the English language for hundreds of years.  It has traditionally been used to describe a place where people may feel safe and experience peace and security.  Whilst these words may be felt within the human heart, sanctuary has often been linked with a space, a place – where people can experience these emotions and feelings of wellbeing within a building.

The Sanctuary at Springhill has evolved from a tiny seed of an idea to becoming a physical space where the deeper issues of life can be celebrated.  Even its name has been considered by both residents and staff members – eventually emerging as the ‘best way to describe what we want to offer’.

The Sanctuary is used as a room for private prayer and reflection – individuals are welcome to use the room at any time, which is open 24 hours a day.  Books and reading materials are available to aid reflection and the room is furnished to accommodate a sense of calm and quiet, to encourage everyone to feel at home and relax, and feel they can simply experience the peace of the environment.

We are also welcoming our local ministers from the Church of England on the first Monday of the month to celebrate the Eucharist with our residents, and each Thursday the Roman Catholic community at Springhill receive a visit from a Eucharistic minister who holds a Service of Holy Communion.

The Sanctuary offers a space for when we may have to break some sad news to relatives or to  welcome a family following a bereavement.   Following the funeral of a resident, their photograph is placed there  for some time to allow all of us  to remember their presence with us.  The room also holds monthly meetings for relatives of the people we support in the Care Centre, allowing a safe space for people  to share with each other the pain that Dementia brings.  Currently a number of staff are undertaking a course in End of Life care, which is held, very appropriately, in The Sanctuary.

We look forward to this wonderful space continuing to embrace all who wish to benefit from its peace and tranquillity.  Whilst The Sanctuary is housed in the middle of a large and busy Care Home, it is proving to be an oasis of welcome for everyone.



Come on Care Homes by Donna Briggs

Donna Briggs (Managing Director)As we all know there is a constant diatribe of news in the media about bad care and care providers are faced with the constant challenge of building a more positive profile of their Care Home and therefore the sector in general.

When attending various forums, particularly around innovative ways of working in care, a common question from the speaker, with typically negative connotations is “would you want to be in a care home when you are older?”

This happened at a recent meeting I attended and when this question was put to a room full of mostly care home providers, there was no response, silence. I then said “yes, if I could choose which one, I have a vision of how my room will look and where my wine and chocolate supply will be stored.”

Not sure this was the answer the speaker was looking for.

I would like to challenge the question and how it is put to audiences.

When asked “would you want to be in a care home when you are older?” What is going through the minds of the audience? Are they really hearing…? “Do you want your health to be as such that you will need support and care when you are older?”

I would expect the majority would respond “no” to this question.

Come on care home providers and managers, become advocates for the fantastic work that you and your colleagues carry our tirelessly day in day out. There are some fabulous care homes doing great things every day, let’s celebrate and be proud of it. Shout about it!  Speak up at meetings, get on Facebook, Twitter, tell the local press, tell the world about the good you do, if you don’t, no one is going to do it for you.

For you speakers out there, an alternative question going forward maybe “what makes a good care home?”

Donna Briggs

Managing Director

Springhill Care



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