By Philippa Shirtcliffe, head of Care Quality at Quality Compliance Systems (www.qcs.co.uk)
Over the weekend my 18- year old daughter sat down to write her UCAS personal statement. In case you’re not familiar with UCAS, I’m referring to the all-important supporting document that those wishing to go to university must submit together with their application.
This year, with the shadow of Covid still looming large, the supporting document, which gives six-formers the opportunity to demonstrate their pas- sion for their chosen course, carries even greater significance. ‘No pressure then,’ I thought.
However, on the upside, I told my daughter that the Covid Pandemic might also spare her the stress of attending an interview. This in turn reminded me of an anecdote somebody told me a long time ago. To this day, I don’t if it is true or not, but it always brings a smile to my face whenever I recall it.
Essentially, it goes something like this. An 18-year old sits down and is handed a piece of paper. When he turns it over he’s confronted with a brainteaser of a question – one which has been specifically designed to test if he can think outside of the box. The question simply reads, “What is courage?”. He thinks for a minute and then has a flash of inspiration as he picks up his pen. He then writes just three words: “This is courage”, and then with no further ado he walks out of the room. Urban myth or true story, I’m assured he was offered a university place.
This year’s State of Care Report, the CQC’s annual assessment of the adult social care system is several thousand words longer, but the authors have demonstrated the same bravery as the teenager in my story. The report not only lays bare the significant challenges faced by the care sector, but at times, it reads like a rallying call for change.
Ian Trenholm, the CQC’s Chief Executive Officer, was equally bullish in the press briefing that followed the release of the report. In it, he called for immediate reform saying that, “COVID has pushed social care even closer to the edge and we need to make sure that action takes place now”.
The CQC report says that “long-term funding” is a pre-requisite. It also urges the government to professionalise the sector. This, I thought, was a little clumsy as it seemed to imply that the sector is made up of unskilled workers, which couldn’t be further from the truth. As I’m sure everyone working in the sector will agree, care staff are some of the most skilled workers in the country, but their rate of pay is far too low for the job they do.
As I read on, however, it became clear that this wasn’t the message that the CQC wanted to convey. On the contrary, it has laid out its vision for the future, which it calls the “new deal”. What is it? In short, the CQC wants to see an already talented workforce have access to the most up-to-date training, and be able to progress their careers with clear career paths mapped out. Adopting this new framework will, says Mr Trenholm, ensure that the adult social care sector “has the prestige it deserves”.
At QCS, the company I work, we have long held this view. As a lead- ing content, compliance and technology provider for the care sector, the core aim of the guidance that we create and develop for our 100,000 users, is to not only address their compliance needs, but to take providers far beyond the regulatory expectations of the CQC. Achieving outstanding person-centred care is not a box-ticking exercise, and in many ways it is the care sector that needs to set the regulatory agenda and not the regulator.
So what needs to happen to realise this dramatic sea-change? There is an array of challenges – many of them cited in the CQC report – that the sector must navigate. Take collaboration and co-production for instance. In my view, they are very much the cornerstone of outstanding care. But the State of Care report suggests that there isn’t enough collaboration happening within the care sector. It says “that the success of collaboration among providers to keep people safe was varied”, while, “at times the pace of change felt overwhelming for health and social care providers”.
Technology too is something that the care sector often struggles to get to grips with. However, that said, there are some positive signs that the sector is adapting to change. During the crisis, for example, its use of video conferencing technology to ensure care home residents were able to stay in touch with their loved ones, was a quantum leap for the sector. But, in a time of Covid, the care sector needs to show a greater willingness to work with innovators to create technology that has been specially created with the care sector in mind. QCS’s Visitor Tracking tool, which, in a nutshell, informs visitors, based on their recent movements, whether they can or cannot visit relatives, is a good example of technological collaboration done well.
Finally, the report calls for close ties between the care and health care sectors. It calls on “providers, regulators and system partners to maintain the appetite to work together and at pace”. We have already witnessed what happens when patient information between the NHS and care homes is not shared. In the Spring lockdown, some Covid-positive patients were discharged from hospital. When they returned on their respective care homes they unwittingly infected others. Preventing a scenario like this from ever happening again is a basic human right. In the future, however, a long term funding strategy, which enables the two vastly different sectors to work seamlessly is the both the biggest challenge and the greatest opportunity.
It will not only require collaboration, strategy and planning, but will demand the same courage exhibited by the boy who walked out of the room. The prize though isn’t a place at a top university. It’s the chance to affect real generational change. And it’s an opportunity that the social care and health sectors should grab with both hands.
To find out how you can join QCS, contact our team on 0333-405- 3333 or email email@example.com.
Care Quality Commission
State of care report https://www.cqc.org.uk/publications/major-report/state-care
STATE OF CARE: Coronavirus exacerbated problems in social care, finds CQC https://www.homecareinsight.co.uk/state-of-care-coronavirus-exacerbated-problems-in-social-care-finds-cqc/