A line that many will recognise – “Do it with us, not to us” – had to be repeated in meeting after meeting pre-COVID.
Before February 2020, I hardly went to any sector meetings. My first and last memory of a pre-COVID meeting was the one with the new contract and none of my questions could be answered by the people at the front. Either they didn’t know or their answer was wrong.
It is therefore extremely satisfying to be able to say that in the context of the above, the world has changed. Care Home Forum was pulled together very quickly in preparation for the full COVID alert. Nicola Tribble set the tone on behalf of the state. We need to work together. George Coxon, unknowingly, highlighted how useful providers talking to each other could be. At the first meeting he announced that all of his payments were wrong and had been so for the last two years. As Evolve were experiencing the exact same problem, it was clear that we had common ground!
Whilst there are lots of imperfections in Devon, and we will continue to find them and change them, we must also recognise what we are achieving. Those of us that work in other counties will have a comparative and will therefore be able to acknowledge that in an imperfect system, we are listened to and we can effect change. There is still a long way to go, but the foundations are laid thanks to our friend COVID-19.
Our job now is to continue the spirit of the relationships that were formed or cemented in COVID culture and continue to work together with the system as we hit challenging times of a different nature – mostly of the economic nature.
With that end in mind, we have spent a lot of time laying the ground for engagement with Social Care and specifically with residential settings to be more organised, efficient and goal driven.
The introduction of the Integrated Care System, which covers Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, should give us the perfect platform to work together to develop our sector and ensure Providers are financially secure, Registered Managers are well supported and the wider workforce have access to everything they need. It is also important that service users benefit from a constantly improving Health and Social Care system that delivers real improvements to their daily life in their lifetime.
So we are co-designing engagement, we are being extremely clear that Social Care must be at the table and we are leaving no stone unturned.
We are working our way right through the system asking the same question – how is social care represented and by whom?
To engage with the system is a complex task. We are all different, our companies are all different and the sector we work covers such a broad spectrum that it is difficult for one person to truly understand each and every niche in order to properly represent them.
In the Integrated Care System, we enter a world dominated by the NHS with their red tape, fancy data collection systems and years of experience in the way they do business. Objectively, we start off on the back foot and need to play catch up.
One of our aims this year is to formalise our data collection system so we truly represent the Care Home Voice – i.e. we represent you and your needs. At the moment we are guessing (hopefully correctly 80% of the time).
We need to ensure that our data collection from our members is detailed and timely in order that we can challenge appropriately where system decisions do not support our needs.
For example, in a workforce meeting the NHS can state immediately the number of Registered Nurses or Carer vacancies. When it gets to Social Care, we have to guess and then, rightly, money is not allocated to us because we cannot necessarily rely on the data. We are the only ones that can fix that and fix it we must. Our ask of you is to participate as soon as a survey comes to you. We will only be asking if we need the data for a reason. Please help us to help you!
The textbook answer here should be to represent your views. My tongue in cheek answer is get yourself to one of the meetings and state your own view. It is much more powerful!
My personal goal and the main reason that I spend so much time on sector work is to improve the system for people living on a cognitive journey. I had the pleasure of living under section under the NHS roof for three years. The way they treated people in Fromeside hospital, during my time there, was shameful. I truly believe that we have foundations in Devon to change the way the system works and deliver measurable, tangible improvements that will mean people living in Health and Social Care can access a better life. Life gave me a second chance. The geriatrics living on a cognitive journey in our system will probably not be so lucky, so this maybe their last chance. We need to get it right!
So for this year we have set some Strategic Objectives to work towards through engagement.