Improving Care Home Practices, Making Residents Safer

The ways that care home staff change shifts and how they exchange information when coming on and off duty are widely thought to be crucial for ensuring safe, high-quality and dignified care for older people, according to new research by the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, part of the Policy Institute at King’s College London.

Based on interviews and observations with staff in five care homes in England, the research sheds light on what seem to be the most important things to take into account when organising shift changeovers, including clear communication; transparent and readily available written records; attention to confidentiality and respect for residents’ dignity; punctuality of staff; and making sure that staff value this part of their daily routine and are paid for it.

The researchers also found that some managers and registered nurses reported believing that handovers had additional uses, such as opportunities for team-building, ensuring members of staff were allocated appropriately, organising human resources, and training staff.

The study, which was funded by the Abbeyfield Research Foundation, comes at a time of significant policy interest in the financial sustainability of social care overall and of many care homes in particular. It argues that while there are care homes where practice is not good, there is also a need to acknowledge and celebrate good care homes and the people who work in them. Ultimately, despite there being significant variation between care homes, the researchers suggest that residents’ wellbeing is consistently a primary concern for many frontline staff and their immediate managers.

‘We did not find evidence that one type of handover works any better than another,’ commented Professor Jill Manthorpe, the research team lead. ‘Care homes are not hospitals and what is required in a hospital setting may not suit a care home. Our study suggests the need for care homes to be clear about what they want from handovers and to do what works best for the home and its residents.’ This, she added, would be useful in telling residents’ families about the home’s routines and when talking to care home inspectors about the ways that they place residents at the heart of their work.

Read the full report, ‘How do handovers happen? A study of handover-at-shift changeovers in care homes for older people’ >