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Health and wellbeing of the adult social care workforce

Health and Wellbeing of the Adult Social Care Workforce at Peverel Court Care

 

With the number of cases of COVID-19 on the rise again across the UK, it seemed a good time to review the health and wellbeing support that has been put in place for the adult social care workforce. We examine both the initiatives that have been launched nationally, and also those that we have additionally put in place for our staff at Peverel Court Care.

The care sector is a vital part of our health and care frontline and this pandemic has shone a light on the skills, commitment and dedication of our care workers.

Helen Whately
Minister of State for Care

 

An Unprecedented Year in Adult Social Care

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been a challenging year for the adult social care sector in the UK. Keeping our residents safe has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds; not least as a result of the media coverage it has had. However, equally as important has been ensuring the mental and physical wellbeing of the dedicated people whose hard work has ensured continuity of care for our residents.

While the general population have faced the worry, uncertainty and disruption that the pandemic has brought, for our staff we know that this has been doubly difficult. Not only have they had to worry about bringing illness home to the families and loved ones, but they have also had the added concern of taking something back to work with them.

When you add in the fact that many of our staff have been asked to help maintain levels of services while colleagues have been self-isolating; increasing their own workloads and levels of stress, it’s been incredibly reassuring to see the dedication of our team.

 

Supporting the Adult Social Care Workforce

Nationally, there have been plenty of initiatives launched to help support care workers. An early one was supermarkets including care workers amongst the group of front-line workers to whom priority shopping times were made available. However, at government level, one of the key additions made to support the care workforce was the launch of the Care Workforce app, developed with NHSX and the NHS Business Services Authority, under the new CARE brand.

Launched in May 2020, the app, which is available for download on iOS and Android, as well as being accessible from any web browser, acts as a single digital hub for social care workers to access relevant updates, guidance, support and discounts from their phone. The tool will be the first of its kind provided for the care workforce, and will:

  • act as a single one-stop-shop providing the sector with all the latest guidance, wellbeing support and advice they need to protect themselves from COVID-19 and keep themselves well
  • provide access to learning resources on crucial areas such as infection control as well as practical advice and support for mental wellbeing
  • show how care workers can take advantage of offers available to NHS and social care staff, including free car parking and discounts through organisations and initiatives like Discounts for Carers and the Blue Light Card
  • signpost free access to apps like Silvercloud, Daylight and Sleepio, which can help boost users’ mental wellbeing through programmes covering sleep, stress and resilience

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

Our incredible social care workforce are on the frontline day and night providing quality care to the most vulnerable in our society during the most unprecedented time in our history. The whole country is incredibly grateful of the work they continue to do for our loved ones.

As part of our continued work to back the care sector, we have launched a new app specifically for care workers to make sure they have the most up-to-date guidance to keep them safe, connected with their colleagues across the country, which also allows them to access discounts like their NHS counterparts.

It’s available to download right now, and I would urge everyone in social care to do so.

 

Managing Mental Health and Wellbeing

In addition to the app, there have been a plethora of support initiatives and guidance released this year to help support the adult social care workforce. A simple, but important set of precisely this type of advice is:

There are some simple things you can do to look after your mental health and wellbeing at the current time. Looking after your mind and body will help you both at work and home.

  • Remember that it is OK to struggle at the present time. Everyone reacts differently and you may feel different emotions at different stages of the pandemic. However, it may cause you to feel worried, stressed, sad, scared or helpless – these are understandable feelings.
  • Take time to look after your physical wellbeing – this will have a big impact on how you feel emotionally. Taking breaks at work, maintaining a routine, eating well and exercising can help.
  • Think about what has helped you cope in the past to cope with stressful situations. Focus on what is in your control, try to pace yourself and remember that this will not last forever.
  • Extend the self-compassion and care you have for others for yourself.
  • Look after your emotional health. After difficult or stressful experiences at work it is normal for memories or images of what has happened to come into your mind. Try to let these memories come and go rather than blocking them or trying not to think about them. Try not to stay focused on difficult thoughts and feelings.

Dr Katrina Lake
NHS England & NHS Improvement Adult Mental Health (South East) Clinical Lead

Other useful examples of guidance documents released this year which are well worth a read, include Health and Wellbeing information for Care Staff and Managing the Wellbeing of Social Care Staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 

Supporting our team at Peverel Court Care

While we have appreciated the efforts that have been made at a national and local level, at Peverel Court Care we wanted to go further to help our employees through this difficult time.

We have also implemented the Employee Assistance Programme, powered by Health Assured, which is a confidential employee benefit designed to help staff deal with any personal and work-related issues that might be affecting them. Whether they are struggling at home or at work, there is a helpline available to them 24/7, 365 days a year, so that they will always have support on hand when they need it over the phone or via live chat.

Peverel Court Care have also partnered with Perkbox Medical to provide employees with 24/7 access to an online GP, as we appreciate how difficult it can sometimes be to schedule appointments around working hours.

The online GP service allows employees to interact with a certified doctor, via app or website from anywhere with internet access. Employees can book an appointment and be seen within minutes, ask for advice, as well as receiving prescriptions and referrals, all at a time of their choosing. Our Directors are among staff to have already taken advantage of this service, and believe they have “witnessed the benefit and efficiency of the process”.

Back in April we also created a bespoke survey platform for the team to provide anonymous feedback and ask questions to the senior leadership team. In order to try to mitigate against any financial hardship suffered as a result of needing to self-isolate, we also invited employees to let us know if they need assistance in dealing with the loss of income as a result of having to isolate for 7 or 14 days. We put in place a scheme covering the months of March and April where we were able to advance up to 100% of the difference between Statutory Sick Pay and an employee’s contractual pay over that period.

We are also introducing Aura for our employees from the 29th October. Even before World Mental Health Day, we had been looking for a new solution which we could provide to our staff to help them better manage the impact on their mental health of both their work and life. Aura is described by it’s founders as:

Join millions who use Aura to manage their emotions and get restful sleep. Whether you’re stressed, anxious or having trouble sleeping, simply tell Aura and find strength & rest.

Mindfulness meditations, stories, life coaching, and so much more. With thousands of empowering & resonating audio tracks, Aura has just what you need every day, and constantly learns what works for you.

 

About Peverel Court Care

Peverel Court Care is a group of one residential and two nursing homes, located in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire: Bartlett’s Residential Care Home and Stone House Nursing Home in Aylesbury, and Merryfield House Nursing Home in Witney. We are a long-standing family business, providing personalised care, delivered by talented and compassionate people, in exclusive and idyllic settings.

With happiness at the heart of our homes, we recognise and respect the contribution made by our residents to society during their lifetimes. Valued by residents and their families; our reputation, investment in each property, and approach to appointing and developing our staff makes each home unique and the benchmark in premium care.

Food & Drink

Bite-sized nutrition at Peverel Court Care

There are two things everyone knows about food. Firstly, it is intrinsically linked to health and wellbeing. Secondly, it is unquestionably linked to happiness and contentedness for most people. For these reasons, the food we feed our residents has to be two things in order to keep them happy and well – tasty and nutritious.

Every day, our residents are given a menu from which they can choose one of several healthy and delicious options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can choose whether they want to eat this food in their rooms or in our dining room, where they can socialise with other residents.

Some of the vegetables we use in our meals come from our very own gardens and are prepared in our very own kitchens. Our gardeners are becoming so good at growing them that we often have vegetables left over, which we offer to the families of our residents.

But because of the happiness food provides, occasionally we have to give our residents the opportunity to eat some more indulgent as a treat. We host a fun activity called Resident Of The Day, in which each resident can choose what they want to eat – even if it isn’t on our menu. We’ve had some marvellous requests including Hungarian goulash, grilled seabass, fish and chips (specifically from the chip shop), and chicken shaslik and popadoms with chutney, which we had delivered from a local Indian restaurant. One of our residents even requested lobster, though he changed his mind in the end and settled for something else. We ask our residents what they would like in advance of their special day and then take the necessary steps to make sure they get it. They can even order puddings.

Nutrition has a serious side, so we do weigh our residents to make sure that they remain within a healthy weight-range. If any of our residents lose 2kg or more in a month, which is extremely rare, we take several immediate steps to make sure they move back into their healthy weight-range, including monitoring their weight weekly and referring them to GPs, dieticians and speech and language therapy for swallowing assessment as soon as possible. Weight-loss is usually nothing to do with a dislike of food, so we have to work quickly to work out if there are any underlying illnesses or issues. We can then work towards making our residents feel better.

But it’s all mostly good news. We get great reviews about our food in our resident’s surveys. We think this is because we work so hard to make sure our residents likes and dislikes are noted in their care plans, as well as working hard to accommodate their dietary requirements. We will do our research to meet the needs of any food requirement our residents have, both pre-admission and in an on-going, evolving care plan.

Food is a big part of life for all of us. There is no reason our love for it should end when we move on and live in a care home environment. We would like to thank our kitchen staff, who work tirelessly to make sure our residents are kept healthy and happy through delicious, nutritious menus – and for making sure they’re kept satisfied with the odd treat, too!

Leadership & Management

Good leaders and managers transform care

Every member of our team is highly valued and essential to our day-to-day activity. They’ve helped us to build an impeccable reputation for delivering high quality care. Across our three sites, we have employed a team of highly skilled and attentive leaders and managers, whose job it is to guide and influence the rest of the staff. All of this is in place so that we can make sure that we’re providing safe, efficient and person-centred care.

Of all of the categories that the Care Quality Commission investigate when they inspect a care home, the ‘well-led’ category is the one that is most closely aligned with the other categories. Care homes with great leaders and managers get a higher rating in the well-led category, and care homes with a higher well-led rating tend to get a better rating overall. This is because leaders and managers are pivotal in the overall performance of a care team team. They directly influence the quality of care provided, which is exactly what the Care Quality Commission is there to inspect. At Peverel Court Care, we not only invest in our current leaders and managers, but in staff we know have the skill and aspiration to become leaders in the future.

In 2001, Mibell Hernandez began her career as a carer with us. We saw something in her immediately, so we assisted her with the adaptation process for overseas nurses so that she could acquire a nurses pin in the UK. From there, we funded a whole series of training for Mibell, both externally and internally, including the Level 5 Diploma in Leadership for Health and Social Care. Mibell went on to become the Deputy Manager at Stone House Nursing Home, the Registered Manager at Merryfield Nursing Home and then the Registered Manager at Bartlett’s Residential Care Home.

We continue to invest in her. Mibell is a valued member of our team. She knows our organisation and our aims and ethos incredibly well, and this is what we want from our leaders and managers – people who know the exceptional care level we strive to provide and are dedicated to maintaining those standards. Because of this, we continue to invest in her development – we recently sent her on a course about successful people management and team leadership.

The elderly care sector is notorious with high staff turnover rates, but Mibell has been with us for fifteen years now. We have staff members working at all levels of our organisations who have been with us for many years. We pride ourselves on our staff retention rates, especially within our leadership and management teams. We know that the key to great care is a strong team headed by capable leaders and managers who are passionate about the organisation they work for. The best way to grow a team like that is to invest in your individuals, something we promise we’ll always do.

Care Management

A meeting of managers at Peverel Court Care

Leaders and managers are incredibly important in any organisation. If they’re doing their job correctly, they should be responsible for a happy and content culture amongst staff in care organisations. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, happy staff means happy residents. If our employees enjoy their job and feel looked after, they’re going to be better at looking after other people. It is the job of our leaders and managers to influence that happiness.

At the end of August we held a management forum, which brought together managers from all three of our sites. As an organisation with three separate homes, two in Buckinghamshire and one in Oxfordshire, its important that we maintain a constant level of communication between our management teams. They’re responsible for implementing our organisational action plan and clearly communicating our ethos and best practice to all other staff members, so it’s important that this is clearly communicated to them in the first instance.

These management meetings are also excellent for forging bonds between our individual management staff and their teams. We may be working from individual locations, but we are one large team at the end of the day. Our successes and challenges are shared. We need to make sure we have organisations that are well-led, with strong, skilled and communicative managers who are able to really inspire a culture of hard work and dedication amongst their individual care teams and across the whole of Peverel Court Care. The best way for us to do that is to really bring together our managers, both physically and metaphorically.

Managers at the meeting shared their triumphs and difficulties from the past twelve months and then worked together to form an action plan. This joined up working draws on the strengths of individual team members to work to overcome a problem together. It’s a great way of identifying what are our best assets, both collectively and individually, and where we’re stronger as a team than we are on our own.

In the afternoon, we had an events team set up a ‘Masterpiece Challenge’. We were split into individual units but worked together following a set of instructions to form what would eventually turn into a ‘masterpiece’, to huge success. The final product was beautiful, watching it fit together so seamlessly was fascinating. The aim of the challenge was to show our teams what they can do as individuals, as smaller units and as one big team. When everyone is following the same instructions, communicating effectively and working towards the same common goal, we can achieve great things.

By continuously strengthening the communication at Peverel Court Care from management level and throughout all of our care teams, we continue to work together to form an impressive standard of care. Our individual care homes identify our teams, our ethos and aims are our instructions, the type of strong communication and teamwork we saw at our management forum is the glue that knits everything together, and the superb care that we provide is our masterpiece.

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