OPINION: Complex care staff deserve status of healthcare nursing teams

Alison Rose-Quirie

Next week is Action for Brain Injury Awareness Week, which aims to focus debate on the successes and  challenges of this vital part of the social care scene. Dr Alison Rose-Quirie, CEO, Swanton Care and Community, wants to raise awareness of the importance of the care staff working with people with Acquired Brain Injuries, and argues that they deserve just as much respect as nurses working with the same patients in the healthcare sector.

Advances in medical technology and techniques mean that people today who suffer major brain injuries are far more likely to survive, and in some cases make significant recoveries, than they were just 20 years ago.

The standards of care and expertise that individuals can now expect in complex care settings are advancing all the time as we discover new ways to improve the lives of people with Acquired Brain Injuries.

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This week marks Action for Brain Injury Awareness Week and while much of the focus will be on greater awareness of these complex conditions I want to spend a moment to praise an army of carers who are too often overlooked.

Providing care and nursing support in a complex care setting has come a long way and to my mind the level of expertise and skill that is now required should be viewed on an equal footing as that which is provided in acute healthcare settings.

For too long a career in social care has been seen as somehow less than one in healthcare, but I believe we are on the cusp of a major shift in perceptions.

Those who are passionate about working in care are seeing complex care facilities, such as the one we currently operate at Eden View in Cambridge, as places where they can enjoy rich, rewarding and challenging careers.

Caring for people with an ABI is complex, challenging and requires real skill – it’s high time that the people who perform these essential roles are held in the same esteem as nurses working in the NHS – why should we discriminate between the two?

Our ABI/neuro rehab services take directly from NHS acute wards and I know that if our service wasn’t there people would have to spend more time in hospital. Our carers are providing equally specialised support so they surely deserve the same recognition.

Swanton’s dedicated teams look after people who are on ventilators and who have had tracheostomies, and our nurses and care workers are trained by Addenbrooke’s Hospital NHS Trust to a high standard to look after these very complex clients in a homely environment.

Yes, we employ nursing staff, but the majority of our teams constitute care support staff who if necessary can clear blocked tubes and perform basic nursing duties that would be carried out by nurses in a hospital setting.

We believe that this ‘parity of esteem’ is one of the keys to building an integrated health and social care system in this country, which will have massive benefits for patients, service users, staff – and the tax payer.

Parity of esteem is core to our philosophy and so we train nurses and care workers together in the specialist tasks that are required for this highly specialised service.

In recognition of the higher level and more complex tasks that our ABI teams perform we will soon be launching the ‘Care Practitioners Qualification” which aims to close the gap in esteem between care and nursing staff.

So please, this Action for Brain Injury Awareness Week, remember the dedicated teams of carers who provide compassionate and skilled care for individuals who find themselves in incredibly challenging situations.

The more we celebrate these carers and acknowledge the skills that they possess the more a career in social care will be seen as a smart choice and the more likely we will be to attract the brightest and the best to these essential services.

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