There were over 250 witnesses and over one million pages of documentary evidence published in the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry final report. Within these pages no specific individual or organisation was blamed for what amounted to a disastrous number of failings in patient care.
One would hope that all those working in health care professions are out to achieve the best possible standards in our country’s care homes and hospitals. Unfortunately, over the last few years, a number of medical incidents have taken on a high profile stance following widespread media coverage.
The Staffordshire inquiry is just one example. In December 2012, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed that over the last eight years, there has been a large increase in wait times in accident and emergency departments in England. The Winterbourne abuse scandal also sparked huge public interest into the standards of care delivered in homes; both private and public.
While ensuring greater accountability is a very necessary and positive step, it does introduce a whole new set of considerations care home managers.
Here’s a look at a few of the challenges faced by care home managers as they attempt to improve standards inside our nation’s care homes.
A growing problem
Over the next several decades the number of elderly people in the UK is expected to boom to record numbers. According to the 2011 census, a total of 9.2million people across England and Wales are above the age of 65. This is an increase of more than 10 per cent in the past decade. With the “baby boom” generation entering retirement age, there will be a considerable strain on the country’s care home facilities, with more competition for spaces, services and treatments.
Already many care home facilities face limited resources and are in constant need of more trained staff. Managers are forced to perform a juggling act to balance the best care with budget requirements that can sometimes hinder the staff to patient ratio. These are challenges that are expected to worsen as the nation’s population ages and become more reliant on medical care.
Unique needs and requirements
Each care home facility faces its own set of problems and challenges. For this reason, a tailored approach needs to be taken to address each centre’s specific needs and requirements. Some of the most common areas for improvement across the board are lack of communication, poor availability and limited funding.
Better communication: the recent Staffordshire inquiry and report highlighted that there needs to be a massive overhaul in the manner in which communication is handled and viewed within NHS services.
In his report, Robert Francis QC, Chairman of the Inquiry makes 290 recommendations. One which was that there needs to be “Openness, transparency and candour throughout the system underpinned by statute. Without this a common culture of being open and honest with patients and regulators will not spread.”
Care homes will benefit from a similar approach; utilising better communication between residents, relatives and staff to create an improved lifestyle within care homes.
The biggest challenge faced by managers in delivering this service is a lack of staff training. With an overhaul to the practices and methodologies performed in a centre, comes the need for improved staff training so that they can be effectively implemented.
Improving patient to caretaker ratio: care homes are under constant strain to create spaces for new patients. With this comes the pressure and necessity of offering an improved ratio of care between trained staff and residents, with a stronger one-on-one focus.
Another of the chairman’s recommendations stated that “training standards need to be created to ensure that qualified nurses are competent to deliver compassionate care to a consistent standard.”
It is definitely critical that training standards need to be revaluated. However, even if new policies are implemented, managers still face the issue of how to recruit qualified individuals into their care facilities. One way to do this stretches beyond the health care industry and that is to create a positive work environment with proper levels of organisation.
Funding: Care home managers face a constant battle with finding the necessary resources in order to fund these services. Alongside receiving state funding, some centres also choose to privately fundraise in order to meet their budget.
According to the Guardian, “the way patients receive medical care across England will soon undergo the single biggest change since the NHS was created. From April 2013, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will assume formal responsibility for a health budget of £60bn.”
How this affects funding for care home managers is still unknown.
There are many additional challenges faced by managers in improving standards in the care industry. However, as Mr Robert Francis QC says the recommendations he makes “represent not the end but the beginning of a journey towards a healthier culture in the NHS where patients are the first and foremost consideration of the system and all those who work in it. It is the individual duty of every organisation and individual within the service to read this report and begin working on its recommendations today.”
Bio – This article was written by Simon Adams, an associate for Randstad Care