IN THE LOOP: Andrea Sutcliffe talks on workforce and quality

Andrea Sutcliffe, CQC Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care.

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, CQC’s Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, is back with her autumn column focussing on the importance of the workforce and how this impacts on quality.

Our concerns about the workforce in adult social care and the difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff feature throughout our recently published State of Care report.

Addressing these problems requires us to challenge the stigma that is often associated with working in adult social care – how many times have you heard care work being described as low-skilled when we know how much skill and commitment is required to carry out these important roles?  The problems this causes in vacancies and high turnover were highlighted again in Skills for Care’s latest workforce figures published in September.

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Luckily, I was pleased to celebrate the dedication of thousands of social care workers at this year’s very first Professional Care Workers Day, and attend the launch of the research into care workers well-being, organised by the National Association of Care and Support Workers.

CQC understands how important care ‎workers are in making sure people receive high quality, safe, effective and compassionate care. When we ask if a service is Caring we are really looking at the contribution staff make. And the good news is that across the country and all types of services, we are seeing over 90% rated Good for Caring and a further 3% are Outstanding.

For example, I recently visited those living and working at Nightingale House care home in London that is rated as Outstanding overall as well as for Caring. In our CQC inspection report we shared that: “An old Morris Minor car had been put in the garden specifically for a person who had expressed a fondness for this type of car, an office had been created for another person who missed working and a former architect was encouraged to participate in planning meetings about building projects at the home. Staff seemed to genuinely enjoy the company of the people living at Nightingale House, which added to the friendly and homely atmosphere we found there.”

But while we rate the Caring of services highly, this is not the overall picture of quality meaning that many staff are providing great care despite the system not because of it.

We also know that what people do in adult social care is not valued or recognised as it should be.  It is not low-skilled – it is highly skilled.  It is not an easy job – it is a difficult job.  Care workers support people with complex needs; need to have great communication skills, emotional intelligence and gallons of patience.  I know I would find it hard to do it and I have tremendous respect for everyone who does.

So what’s the solution? Well, one way is to speak up. If you haven’t seen it, a new Talk Health and Care digital space has been set up by Government for care professionals like you (and our NHS colleagues) to share ideas and questions on five main areas to improve working in the sector. This conversation will also be fed into the development of the long-term plan for the NHS and eagerly awaited Adult Social Care Green Paper.

My own personal wish is that adult social care is truly seen as a desirable career option, with staff valued and recognised for the vital work they do and supported by employers who ensure they have the time, learning and development to provide great care.

I’ll close now by simply saying thank you to readers of Care Home Professional – thank you for the difference you make every day to so many people across the country, and thank you for the enormous contribution you make to society.

Until next time….

Andrea.

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