Senior Director of Care & Quality Joanne Balmer explains how all Sunrise Senior Living and Gracewell Healthcare communities and homes deliver care at the highest standard and maintain consistent compliance success
Tell us about your background and how you joined Sunrise.
I joined Sunrise in September 2014, becoming Senior Director of Care & Quality after a year. In this role, I am responsible for governance, regulation and quality improvement, and ensuring that Sunrise communities exceed CQC requirements.
I have a range of experience within the care sector, previously holding the position of Director of Care & Quality at Gracewell Healthcare, and working in areas, including acute care, primary care, and governance. I achieved a merit in my MBA (Health Executive) at Keele University, including a distinction in my dissertation, and also have a BSc in Community Health Studies and Diploma in adult nursing.
Tell us about the services offered by Sunrise and your target market
We offer high-quality services for people who want a balance between a hotel-like environment and an excellent standard of care. Our services include dementia care, nursing care, and assisted living, and our focus is always on providing person-centred care which is tailored to a range of individual needs.
How has the Dutch care model influenced your service?
While the Dutch model has not directly influenced our high-quality service, there are certainly similarities with our approach to care. We foster a strong sense of community in which residents feel like they are part of a mini-neighbourhood, where team members spend quality time with them every day, and there is always someone to talk to.
How do you address recruitment challenges?
Our award-winning Rewards team are dedicated to ensuring team members enjoy a motivating, fulfilling environment, which helps both recruit and retain dedicated team members. In addition to offering a wide range of employee benefits and incentives, we work hard to foster a cohesive community in which team members are always there for one another. Our Summer of Sunrise campaign every July encourages team members to celebrate each other’s skills and strengthen work relationships, while we instil a strong set of core values which bring everyone together – kindness, integrity, empathy, respect, and trust.
How do you provide support to your team in terms of training?
We do not believe training should be a one-off occurrence, but a continual process in which team members are always given opportunities to learn and grow. In a sector where care homes often tick training boxes to meet CQC requirements, we go the extra mile to ensure team members can always share skills and experiences, and have access to fantastic external resources to further their development.
How do you empower your staff to take responsibility and innovate?
Every month, we hold a town hall meeting at which all team members are able to put forward their views and perspectives, and suggest ideas. And on a daily basis, we provide the platform for team members to be creative and innovative, and advance our quality of care in any way they see fit. Unlike many organisations, we have no barriers between our senior leadership team and other team members – we are fully encouraging of new thinking from anywhere in the organisation.
What opportunities do you offer staff to specialise in specific areas of care?
There are great opportunities to specialise in areas such as dementia care, nursing care, and assisted living. For example, team members wanting to focus on dementia care have access to first-class foundational training, advanced training, and degree-level training, the latter of which is in partnership with Worcester University’s programme on ‘Leading and facilitating change in dementia care’. We draw on both internal and external expertise to give our team members the best possible chance to flourish.
What career pathways and incentives do you offer staff?
As soon as people express an interest in joining Sunrise, we show them what kind of career progression they could enjoy with us. There are countless examples of team members who have started as care assistants and progressed all the way up to senior management positions. And even if people are joining us from non-care backgrounds, we provide the training and support to ensure they can thrive and climb the career ladder with us.
How important is the care environment to providing relationship centred care?
We pay attention to every single detail in our care homes to provide relationship centred care. The homely environment that we foster means residents have continual opportunities to take part in exciting activities and events, and express their personal talents and interests. In addition, we tailor the environment to meet the needs of residents with different needs. For example, we ensure all signage is dementia-friendly, and that the dining area is accessible and comfortable for all.
How do you achieve your consistently high quality levels?
We continually evaluate our standards and always strive for improvement. We never rest on our laurels, and know there is always an aspect of our care that can be strengthened. Such high standards are not only set from the top – we give all team members responsibility to innovate and enhance the quality of care.
How do you share best practice across the organisation?
There are a number of different forums that our team members participate in to share their experiences and knowledge. Team members who have developed different specialisms come together with colleagues in their area to exchange ideas. For example, our memory care coordinators take part in national forum on how to enhance quality of care for residents living with dementia.
How are you focusing on improving the quality of your dementia care?
We are currently developing our sector-leading memory care strategy, which is led by our Director of Memory Care, Jackie Pool. Jackie is at the forefront of thinking on this subject, having developed the innovative concept of ‘Rementia’, focused on reversing the symptoms of early-onset dementia. All our homes are dementia-friendly and stimulating, which enhances the cognitive capacity of those living with dementia.
How important is technology in helping you provide relationship centred care? Where are you introducing technology innovations?
We have introduced a number of different technological innovations recently, to enhance relationship centred care. For example, our CareConnect platform provides an electronic health care system, which tracks individual resident care plans to ensure they receive the very best care and support. We are also introducing new technology to help protect residents from falls, and enhance the quality of dementia care, among other innovations.
How do you maintain a close partnership with residents’ families? What role do families take in helping deliver relationship centred care?
It is vital to maintain a constant two-way communication process between team members and residents’ families. As well as holding regular meetings with residents and their families, we have an ‘open door’ policy whereby all family members are welcome to come and speak to us at any time. We also share information on residents’ care plans with their families, and invite family members to come to a wide range of activities and events at our homes throughout the year.
How do you ensure maximum transparency across the organisation?
We strive to maintain a continual communication between the senior leadership team and other team members. There are multiple avenues for team members to speak to directors, either in person, on the phone, or through our anonymous ethics hotline. We want all team members to be comfortable in expressing their views.
How do you see care delivery changing in the coming years?
The introduction of more technology will certainly change and enhance the delivery of care. We will be able to work in smarter ways, and improve aspects of our services ranging from dementia care to the monitoring of standards. More and more of the residents moving into our homes are adept at using technology, so making this a central feature of our care will benefit everyone.
How will technology help provide better care?
Technology enhances care throughout the home – from developing personalised care plans for residents, to evaluating the quality of care, to offering specialised technology services tailored for different types of care.