In the last edition Professor Martin Green introduced his article by highlighting the voice of service users in decision making. There is no doubt that this is important, as is the voice of front-line staff and, of course, the relatives of service users too. A year into the role of CEO at Jewish Care, I have just completed my third shift (to be truthful it was actually half a shift) in one of our 10 care homes for older people, something I made a commitment to doing as I was preparing to take up the post. Despite working in the organisation for 23 years, there is no substitute for joining colleagues who deliver the services which we as a sector are so proud to provide.
I reported for duty at 7.45am, in time for the and handover from night staff – most of our staff work 12-hour shifts. This particular home is organised in households of 12 residents, an approach we are adopting as we develop new facilities and largely driven by the changing needs of those living with us. One might expect that early in the morning the team would be busy supporting residents to wake up and get dressed ready for the day. However, several residents wake early and the team had already ensured that for those that want, they can start their day when they wish – a truly person-centred approach.
Jewish Care has tried to create as homely an environment as possible, so each household has its own kitchen, enabling the team to offer breakfast in a bespoke manner. My job was to make the tea/coffee and talk with the residents. Amazingly, one of them had worked at Downing Street for a number of Prime Ministers and had fascinating stories to share. It reminded me of something we talk about as we recruit and induct new colleagues – our residents are not just service users, not just receivers of care and support. They are people with rich and interesting histories who have so much to continue to offer.
Breakfast seemed to glide into lunch, by which time I was already feeling exhausted. My day as a CEO is often 12 hours long but it pales into insignificance compared to the days of our teams where the physical and emotional demands of caring are phenomenal. Seeing the work of our carers first-hand during my shift, reinforced my strong sense of pride in our organisation.
The dynamics of a group of older people living together is fascinating to observe, and hugely challenging for our care teams. There is a lot of detail to recall and which helps ensure everyone’s needs are met. One of the changes we have instituted within the last 18 months has been the roll out of electronic care plans and these really do ensure continuity of care. I know that this is just the beginning of the journey to utilise technology to support our work and it will be important to invest further as we plan for the future.
In a quirk of timing, we are about to launch our strategy for the next few years and I literally finished my (half) shift and went into a meeting reviewing our communications plan for the strategy. It reminded me of the importance of taking a genuine inclusive approach to thinking about the future. I have spent much of the first year as CEO talking to colleagues at the front line and their views, together with those of our services users and their relatives, are the ones that are shaping our thinking.