By Dr Glen Mason, Managing Director, HC–One
A very long time ago in Ancient Greece Plato, the philosopher said that necessity is the mother of invention and that is no-where more true than today in the care sector.
The necessities we face is that under constant external pressure we need to deliver high quality, closely-regulated, tightly budgeted care for an aging population. Every single day of our working lives, we all have to find ways to do more with significantly less. Fortunately the resilient care sector has responded amazingly well to this sort of pressure and certainly in my own organisation, HC-One, we are finding new ways to deliver the kindest care to our residents through innovation. We have to otherwise we would not survive.
Over recent months, as I have travelled around the country catching up with our hard working and dedicated teams in our care homes I have been particularly inspired by some of the first graduates of our new Care Assistant Development Programme. In addressing the nationwide shortage of qualified nurses, which in turn has placed enormous pressures on the nurses that remain, we have turned to our senior carers for help. They have responded brilliantly. By creating a new Nursing Assistant role for suitably qualified and experienced carers, and providing an RCN accredited development programme for them we been able to dramatically change the way our homes function for the better – and our Residents all benefit as a direct result.
In a challenge to the traditional nursing and care hierarchies our new Nursing Assistant role takes our very best care workers, enhances their skills, enhances their pay and enhances their careers. It allows our loyal band of qualified nurses to feel supported and able to do their jobs properly as they mentor and oversee the work of a group of “super carers” who are keen to take the next step up in their careers.
After less than a year we have been able to put just over a hundred senior carers through the programme. They have developed new, enhanced skills and are able to support our nursing teams with some of routine tasks. Whereas turnover rates in the care sector are typically in the region of 25-30% we have found that our new Nursing Assistants are far more keen to stay in their new role – and so far we have only lost half a dozen or so from the initial group of one hundred.
The impact of the scheme is being independently assessed by the Social Care Institute for Excellence as I write. Judging by the anecdotal feedback I have seen so far we can expect their findings to be extremely positive and provide an example of good practise that we are more than happy to share with the rest of the sector.
The importance of maintaining high morale amongst our care teams must not be underestimated. On my travels I have found our new Nursing Assistants to be amongst the most enthusiastic and inspirational of all my colleagues. They have seized the new role with gusto and are making great use of their new skills. Many will see new career options opening up for them either in further clinical roles or in the management teams within our organisation and beyond.
So whilst we will continue to protest in the strongest possible terms about the difficulties facing the care sector as a whole and make sure that our representatives in local and national government are fully aware of the pressures we face as we negotiate over extremely tight budgets, at places like HC-One we will continue to look for new, creative ways of delivering ever kinder care by making sure our nurses have the best professional support that we can offer and that our carers have real opportunities to improve their prospects and expand their careers.