After listening to Sue Howard, the CQC’s Head of Social Care Inspection for the central region, on BBC Radio 4, I found myself feeling comforted and optimistic. The CQC has come under pressure recently from the media and politicians, but despite this they do appear to have a genuine intention to listen and to see the world of social care through a much wider lens than they used to.
Sue said “It’s about people’s whole lives, so we do need to be making it human, making it personal.” And I couldn’t agree more. I would only hope that the ‘human’ reference she makes is universal and includes the humans that work in social care too!
Just as the regulator can’t be held completely responsible for the quality of care homes, it’s not helpful to assume that the quality of care is entirely the responsibility of the care home either – a complex, emotive and trust-dependent enterprise like a care home can’t work on its own. If Sue Howard and the CQC are going to succeed in making things better they will have to hold organizations like the Department of Health and the DWP to account.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC)’s recent focus on making care person centred is good news, in my opinion. But what should one be looking for when trying to ascertain whether or not a care home is good? Simply searching for ‘care homes in Lincolnshire‘ on the internet is not sufficient when trying to find a suitable place to live. You need to visit places and get a real feel for what they are about. Here I’m going to list my top 10 qualities for good care homes, to give you a clue as to what you should be looking for.
Values should be held at the Top
Culture is crucial. The views of the chief executive that they express privately behind their office door, should reflect the fundamentals of honesty, integrity, humanity and mutual respect in relation to how they manage the business.
The Qualities of the Manager
Managers need to be empathetic, confident, energetic, kind and capable. They should lead bravely and understand their own accountability and that of their staff. They should also know when to ask for help, and be fully supported both practically and emotionally.
Staff should be Supported
Good staff are the heart of a good care home and should model its values. They must be respected, supported, well treated and valued by their employer. Their emotional needs should be met as well as their employment needs recognised and understood and they must be fairly paid. A company that treats its staff well, retains skilled and well meaning care workers and therefore delivers outstanding quality of care.
A good care home should manage risk, regulation and paperwork in a mature way, but focus on relationships and people. They should never allow the ‘system’ and ‘bureaucracy’ to become their main purpose.
A True Community
Good care homes do not refer to ‘the residents’ as there is no such standardized group. A ‘good 42-bed care home’ does not exist. However, there are places where 42 individuals live together well and share some communal time, space and company.
A Home should be ‘lived in’
The environment should be clean, tidy and well designed, but should not look clinical. It should be obvious that individuals have control over their own spaces.
Working with the Health Services
Good care homes should have good relationships with the local health services in their local area – GPs, district nurses, hospitals and consultants. They should respect each other and work together to find solutions with the individuals best interests at heart.
Working with Families
Relatives should be confident in the values of the care home. They should able to challenge when needed and to thank when it’s deserved. They should be able to let the staff do their job, confident that they’ll do it well. Relatives will understand that staff are people too and have their own relationships with the people who live in the care home.
Commissioners and regulators should trust the care home and engage with them in an appreciative way, supporting it as a valued part of the whole system. They should share their good ideas, experiences and knowledge. They should challenge and hold them to account but not place bureaucratic and ineffectual burdens upon them.
Happy Service Users
Above all, the individuals that live in the care home should be given excellent and well rounded care. The organisation should aim to meet their personal, social, physical and spiritual needs at all times, thus giving them a happy outlook and a wonderful quality of life.