If you work in a care home, the goal of continually delivering better care is a guiding principle. It drives you through the lonely hours, relentless demands and difficult working conditions.
The challenges of the past two years have tested that sense of duty to the extreme and put new operational obstacles in way of delivering high quality care. An ongoing recruitment crisis is making matters worse.
How do you continue to deliver high quality care when there is so much stacked against you?
Our guests spoke about the many different facets of care home operations, discussing their biggest challenges and their strategy for delivering better care across their 20 homes across England and South Wales.
In this blog, we summarise the valuable insights provided by our panellists:
- Julie Rayner, Care Quality, Governance & Compliance Director
- Steve Brine, Estates Manager
- Rob Byrom, Regional Hospitality Support Manager
What are the biggest challenges to delivering better care?
Julie Rayner: “The biggest challenge I have faced is infection prevention and control. We've had 21 months of working through the pandemic, trying to unpick the guidance, understanding the differences between Wales and England, as well as different local authorities. It has been a huge challenge trying to provide our teams with the right guidance and support to ensure we remain compliant and are meeting the needs of residents and their families. It’s not only about protecting the physical health of our residents but also their emotional and psychological health.”
Rob Byrom: “My role covers all aspects of hospitality across our homes. That includes anything from managing food suppliers, kitchen compliance and food quality through to the dining experience, front-of-house, customer service and housekeeping. A lot of things have been challenging over the past couple of years. But for me, at the moment, the biggest challenge is probably supply chain, from cleaning supplies to food. If you don’t have that in stock, it's a challenge.”
Steve Brine: “The biggest challenge I have in delivering better care is that we are spread across a wide area. We have multiple homes across England and Wales and historically I would have to go and visit each home individually to see paperwork for compliance purposes. That takes up time and means I am away from my family. It’s also just a complicated thing to deal with. We are looking towards a greener future and things have to change. We really do need to look at working smarter and not harder.”
How do you ensure you are always delivering better care?
1. Keep your values at the heart of everything you do
Rob Byrom: “We’ve introduced five values and we try and take those into account in everything we do, from recruitment to everyday processes. Those values are growth, openness, togetherness, individuality and quality. It gives you a slightly different perspective. It makes you stand back and think of the whole picture when you’re looking at what you want to achieve in terms of delivering better care. For me it's all about keeping it simple. You don’t need to complicate things; it will just take longer. When you know your end goal and why you're doing something, you're more likely to achieve what you're aiming for. And it’s important to bring your whole team with you on that journey.”
Julie Rayner: “Managing change is all about teamwork, collaboration, shared vision and shared values, so that we are all working towards the same goal. That goal is putting the residents at the centre of everything you do, particularly in my role from the quality perspective. Given my background in nursing and my current responsibilities for governance and compliance, my first question will always be: What impact is this going to have on residents and their quality of life? It’s also thinking about the impact on our teams. We have such an inspirational leader in Avnish Goyal. He creates that culture of innovation, with a curiosity about pushing boundaries, looking at best practice and not just taking things at face value. My quality initiatives are centred around the end-of-life care strategy, diabetes management, medicines management and creating projects that involve other team members across the different homes.”
2. Delivering better care means new ways of working
Julie Rayner: “I don't think this will come as a surprise but across the board we've had to embrace technology. We are now very proficient in using Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Prior to Covid, we did a lot of travelling. We had the perception that to get anything done or move a project forward we needed a face-to-face meeting. Now we've been pushed into remote working and making use of technology. There have been benefits and challenges but overall we have managed to drive forward quality improvements in the organisation, to have support meetings with our teams, and keep connected with families on things like care plan evaluations. We’ve been doing training via Microsoft Teams as well. So we've managed to maintain compliance around our training requirements throughout the pandemic."
Steve Brine: “I'm very technically minded and I look at my department from an aerial view. What I needed for this side of the business was a degree of automation. I was looking at ways to innovate. A combination of digital assistants and automated monitoring has helped me overcome some of the major pains I was dealing with. Time is precious. By digitising certain activities that were previously very time-consuming, I have this extra lump sum of time that I've reinvested back into Hallmark. That allows me now to listen and engage more. It has also helped my own mental health and wellbeing. By finding a new way to take care of these simple tasks, we can do so much more. The question is: What else can you automate? Finance will always be a decisive factor when you're talking about innovation but you have to look at what makes the biggest impact on residents. It's all about delivering better care. They’re the innovations that get pushed forward.”
Julie Rayner: “I can say hand on heart that no initiative I've taken forward that positively impacted residents’ quality of life has been pushed back. In the past 12 months, I've spoken about end-of-life care, pain management and diabetes care. All of those things came with a financial impact but because of the effect on residents I was pushing against an open door.”
3. Making time for your teams helps with delivering better care
Julie Rayner: “It’s really important that there are always friendly faces and that residents feel part of a family. That's a critical part of care. Nobody should underestimate anything you can do to free up time for that kind of interaction. I can remember when we first started getting back into the homes after lockdown, it was so valuable being able to sit down with our teams and let them talk about their experiences. To save time and invest that time back into the team and the residents is invaluable.”
Steve Brine: “In terms of recruitment and retention, the care sector as a whole has been affected. At Hallmark we honestly have the most amazing support network across the board. It’s something I've never come across in my working career to date. It reaches absolutely everybody. It allows the company to react to challenges and come up with solutions very quickly. We had innovation challenges to confront while the pandemic was spreading across the world. But we achieved what we wanted. The reason we excel is by making the teams feel valued and giving them that care. That can only have a real impact on retention.”
Rob Byrom: “We've all got very different skill sets. But we share the same vision in terms of delivering better care. Hallmark is great at listening to every team member. If you’re excited and passionate you will get all the support you need. The Hallmark family feel makes such a difference in everything we do. The staff feel valued and part of that cohesive family culture.”
What’s your advice to care home leaders on delivering better care?
Julie Rayner: “As a sector, we have been through a lot and there are probably a lot of challenges we've still got to get through. But as a sector, we are incredibly resilient. We're all fairly special working in the care sector. My advice would be, don't give up. Just keep going and push those boundaries. You don’t have to accept everything as it is. You can question, practise and innovate, and continue to support older people to live their best lives.”
Rob Byrom: “Listen to residents’ feedback to your team and act on what you receive. Don't let it go in one ear and out of the other. You have to celebrate the positives, of course. It’s so important and we do forget sometimes. But make sure you work on any constructive feedback you might receive so you can move forward and continually strive to deliver better care.”
Steve Brine: "My advice is never stop. Never stop listening. Never stop learning, growing and creating opportunities, not just for yourself but for others around you. And, obviously, working together. Everything is better when you work with someone else and help others along the way."