Philippa Shirtcliffe, Head of Care Quality at Quality Compliance Systems (QCS), talks about the challenges of shaping compliance in a Pandemic.
COVID-19 has claimed over nearly 76,000 lives across the globe[i], but on these shores it has changed attitudes too. For so many years, adult social care has been labelled a ‘Cinderella Service’. It has been grossly under-funded, under-valued, and misunderstood by successive governments; so much so that in mid–February the current administration ruled that carers were “unskilled” workers.
What a difference a few months make. For the last fortnight, the brave efforts of care workers, have been recognised by the nation, who have cheered them from their doorsteps. But what a terrible shame it has taken a disease as deadly as COVID-19 to elevate their status.
Anyone reading this will know just how complex and demanding care work can be. It requires highly-skilled staff with vastly technical skill-sets and an unbreakable spirit, to deliver holistic and person-centred care.
But the Coronavirus Pandemic has made their jobs even harder. Not only is PPE in short supply, but infection prevention and control measures have had to be intensified since the outbreak began in February. The problem is that with events so fluid, many providers are unsure what best practice now looks like.
QCS Coronavirus hub
At Quality Compliance Systems (QCS), over the last six weeks or so, we’ve been inundated with calls from subscribers across the UK. While most are fluent in infection control guidance, they want to learn what extra measures they need to take to keep this highly infectious and insidious virus at bay. And they want to know what best practice looks like, and more importantly, how to instil it in their staff.
We listened and then immediately went to work. Integrating guidance and best practice from industry bodies such as the NHS, PHE and the NCA, we developed a COVID-19 hub. With Coronavirus such a fast-evolving Pandemic, the policies and procedures within it are updated the minute regulation changes, or when an area of best practice evolves.
We’ve also created easy-to-read fact sheets and guides, which allow care workers on the front lines to be agile and responsive in their work. We’ve had some great feedback from our subscribers, but we’ve made the hub free to access. So if you’re not a QCS member but want to access our suite of COVID-19 policies, you can do so here.
Staff training in a pandemic
With compulsory measures like social distancing in place, staff training has suddenly become much more challenging. Before the outbreak many providers advocated the classroom approach. Now, however, they’ve had to embrace technology and utilise ‘virtual’ training. It’s incredibly important that this e-training mirrors the classroom learning. That means providing carers with access to online competency assessments. For example, that could be a video demonstrating the correct order to put on and remove PPE. Or it could be an e-learning module illustrating how clinical waste practices have changed since the virus struck. The QCS Care Quality team has researched the best videos and learning tools to support e-learning and has uploaded them onto the hub.
But, there’s another dimension to the training narrative. With hospitals currently inundated with COVID-19 admissions, there’s a lot more pressure on care providers to start taking service users back into homes. In these difficult times, providers are having to upskill their staff very rapidly. This means teaching them to recognise the early signs of COVID-19 in elderly residents, which are often very different to symptoms displayed by younger people. In these difficult times, having access to a comprehensive suite of infection control policies and procedures (which are constantly updated), is crucial.
If there is one glimmer of light on the horizon, it is a growing realisation that infection prevention and control best practice is being re-shaped by this crisis. It is forcing the care sector and the NHS to look at infection control in a way that they never done so before. If we are to affect positive change, however, the primary care and adult care sectors must collaborate as equal partners and on a scale never seen before. The care sector must no longer be seen as a poor cousin. It has much to offer in terms of new ideas, not to mention a workforce possessing huge reserves of fortitude and resilience. This is perfectly evident to anyone looking in. For those looking out, the Coronavirus, may prove to be the driver that finally heralds lasting change.
[i] Figure taken from John Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center
Figure accurate at the time of writing