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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.

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24/7 GP access for our staff

24/7 online GP service for staff at Peverel Court Care

 

With a recent study revealing that NHS patients are now waiting on average nearly 15 days to see a GP for a routine appointment, we examine how we’re helping our staff with their own health needs.

 

Access to GPs has seldom made more headlines than it has of late. A report published on the Pulse – considered the leading publication for GPs in the UK – highlighted that in a recent survey, over 20% of the 900 GPs who responded said that their patients faced an average wait for a routine appointment of over three weeks. More than one in 20 stated it was more than four weeks.

Another story from Pulse earlier this year focused on the fact GP surgeries across the UK have been shutting their doors in record numbers. In 2018, 138 surgeries closed, compared with just 18 in 2013. Much of this is believed to be the result of underfunding, although leading figures in the sector have complained that GPs are overworked and stressed, leading more to exit the profession or reduce their hours.

More recently, a study by the University of Manchester found that GP partners’ income had decreased by around 10% in real terms over the period from 2008 to 2017.  This has come against the backdrop of GP workloads increasing by around 20% over the same period. Taken together, it is believed that this “may have contributed to current recruitment and retention problems”. 

 

The expert view

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, was quoted as saying: 

Our patients should be able to see a GP when they need to – and the fact that this is becoming increasingly difficult is frustrating for GPs and their teams, just as we know it is for patients. People are waiting too long for routine appointments, and the concern is that non-serious conditions might deteriorate, or patients give up trying to see the GP and we miss signs of serious illness early, when it could be dealt with simply and more cost effectively in primary care.

All of this comes in the wake of the 2015 election pledge by the Government to add an additional 5000 GPs by 2020; a pledge which they are struggling to meet. However, this promise was questioned by many, including Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s GPs committee, who said at the time:

Delivering 5,000 extra GPs in five years, when training a GP takes 10 years, was a practical impossibility that was never going to be achieved. It was a pledge that also ignored the fact that one third of GPs are planning to retire by 2020, and the current medical graduates do not want to join an overworked, underfunded service, with more than 400 GP trainee posts left unfilled last year.

 

Our solution to the GP access problem

Given the challenges faced by both the GPs and their patients, it’s hardly surprising that juggling a working day with the sparse availability of appointments has never been more difficult for patients; and in particular those who are shift workers – like many of our staff.

That’s why, at Peverel Court Care we have invested in a service which provides 24/7 online access to a GP for our staff. Whilst we appreciate that for certain conditions, a visit to the local surgery may still be required, we hope that the online service we’ve provided can, for many, give them an alternative to the lengthy NHS waiting times.

We recognise the fantastic work that our team do in providing first rate levels of care for our residents. So we believe that it’s only right and proper to do all we can to help them maintain their own health and wellbeing. Therefore, the introduction of the GP service is just one of many recruitment and retention initiatives we have in store to help our staff realise how valued they are by the Peverel Court Care management team. We hope that these small gestures of our appreciation can help make their work-life balance that little bit easier.

 

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.

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