“Dear Mr Health Secretary…”

By Victoria Sylvester, CEO Acacia Training (www.acacia.ac.uk)

Sajid Javid settles in as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care at a time when the lifting of legal Covid restrictions and the uncertainty that brings, is balanced against a sustained period of media scrutiny on the sector. So, faced with a daily barrage of news headlines, what should he believe and where should he focus his attentions?

Recent news reports on health and social care burnout came as little surprise. Pressures were acute before the pandemic and have since increased and whilst this is the reality for many, it’s not the case everywhere and the new Secretary of State must remember this.

Mr Javid must consider why staff shortages can be so acute; why turnover can be so high; and why stress and anxiety levels are higher than in other sectors. In no small part, it’s down to how the people at the heart of care are treated. Simply, the sector needs to adopt a far greater appreciation of staff needs, from professional development to wider wellbeing.

This isn’t just an aspiration. There is a direct correlation between investing in people and their careers and how they, in turn, value their role. Providing care workers with on-going training, investing in their well-being, and supporting them when things get tough pays dividends.

I know this for a fact. Samuel Hobson House in Staffordshire has a positive culture and an established focus on wellbeing. Here, Acacia Training works with the leadership team on a range of wellbeing, mental health, and training provisions. The impact is clear: staff turnover is 7% compared to the local average of 26%; sick- ness days are half the regional comparison; and, significantly, the percentage of staff with a Level 2 or above qualification is 92%, compared to the local average of 55% .

Acacia’s wellbeing support programme is embedded in our care training. It includes the significance of a balanced diet and relationships with food; building resilience and mindset development; and the importance of sleep. It may sound abstract but equipping a team with the tools to decompress after a long, tough day is critical.

Of course, there will be staff who feel the pressure more than others and here, early recognition and empathy is vital. Access to counselling and support around mental health can make a significant difference in pre- venting pressure boiling over. It’s important too, that managers recognise their own pinch points – they are not, after all, invincible.

This wraparound support is essential when investing in a care team that feels valued, but professional train- ing is crucial too. Those employed within care are too often seen simply as ‘workers’ – they must be considered ‘professionals’. There is no coincidence that the high percentage of the team at Samuel Hobson House with a Level 2 or higher qualification (amongst other factors) correlates to the low staff turnover there – the team recognises that it is valued and invested in.

The myriad of government initiatives that exist to drive greater levels of training within the sector provide it with the power to give staff a career that offers longevity and tangible progress – both appealing aspects in attracting the best talent.

So, Mr Javid as you focus on funding and forecasting for care, please don’t also forget that training and wraparound wellbeing support both go an incredibly long way to making those at the heart of the sector feel truly valued and invested in their own careers – that’s important!

Victoria Sylvester, CEO – Acacia Training tel: 01782 646 346 email: victorias@acaciatraining.co.uk web: www.acaciatraining.co.uk

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