Over 120 academics, commissioners, lobby group representatives and care home staff and providers, together with NHS clinical and research staff, attended a pioneering care home industry ethics conference hosted by one of the UK’s leading care providers – The Orders of St John Care Trust (OSJCT).
The one-day conference, which took place on Tuesday 8th July at Oxford University’s Merton College, touched on a range of ethical issues relating to the care sector. As part of the event, leading clinical, academic and legal experts discussed key topics from a variety of perspectives.
OSJCT Principal Care Consultant (Research & Innovation), Victoria Elliot, commented: “We believe this conference was not only innovative and timely, but necessary, especially since it seems there has been little previous examination of the ethical issues relating to care homes.
“Across the Trust, we felt it was important for all those associated with the sector to come together to learn about and consider all of the ethical issues pertaining to the people working, living and dying throughout the country’s care homes.”
Following headline reports of vulnerable residents being abused or exploited by care staff, as well as the consequent debate surrounding CCTV use to monitor care practices, the diverse ethical issues relating to the care and welfare of both residents and care teams are of paramount importance. The ethics conference aimed to put these issues on the agenda for researchers, commissioners, regulators, providers and the multidisciplinary teams that work alongside care home staff.
Dr Hugh Series, presenter at the conference, is also a consultant old age psychiatrist and medical member of mental health tribunals.
Dr Series commented, “In March this year, the Supreme Court handed down a judgment that will have profound repercussions for all those involved in providing care for mentally incapacitated elderly people in care homes, hospitals, and elsewhere. As part of my session, we examined the background to this judgment and what it means in practice.”
Professor Jill Manthorpe, Director of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London, also spoke at the conference, discussing the ethical issues pertaining to the safeguarding of both residents and care teams and highlighting the need to support care home workers and to not blame them for every failing of care.
Professor Manthorpe commented: “No one would argue against the idea that older people living in care homes deserve dignity and respect – but the same applies to people who work in care homes. Low morale and unjustified blame do not attract people to work within the industry, so if we are to ensure good quality care, then we need to value the workforce.”
Professor Ann Gallagher from the International Care Ethics Observatory at the University of Surrey also presented, arguing that care home ethics requires a reconsideration of values such as care, dignity and love that goes beyond conventional bioethics. “Ethics education,” she said, “is necessary to promote the flourishing of residents and staff.”
Additional speakers included:
• Eileen Burns from the British Geriatric Society, highlighting the clinical challenges of care of the elderly
• Dr Michael Dunn from the Ethox Centre in Oxford, reviewing his research which argues that staff in the care home sector need more ethical support.
OSJCT is a care home provider with 69 homes across Oxfordshire, Lincolnshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. The Trust is dedicated to delivering the highest quality, person-centred care, providing a broad range of services including residential, nursing and dementia care.
For further information about OSJCT, visit www.osjct.co.uk.