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05th December 2013

Bring Back Common Sense – Lessons from a Failed Inspection

bringbackcommonsenseFailure is supposed to be a great teacher

Just do a Google search on ‘learning from failure’ and the quotes from the great and the good are endless:

  • '’It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.’’ (Bill Gates)
  • ‘’Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don't fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.’’ (Jim Rohn)

However, learning is probably not the first thought on your mind if you receive a Care Quality Commission inspection report telling you that you’ve failed against one or more standards. First reactions might be disappointment, concern, frustration, bewilderment, looking for someone to blame, embarrassment, resentment and possibly a mild sense of panic about how to turn things around before the re-inspection.

A snapshot report from the CQC published last year found a quarter of sites (NHS and independent) failed to meet all the CQC’s essential standards - 17% failed to meet medicines management standards, 15% failed to meet standards on record keeping and 11% failed on staffing standards.

Learning from the experience

Having recently supported a Care Home with the aftermath of such a failed inspection, and having worked through the initial reactions and responses, it was helpful to step back and reflect on what the Care Home could learn from the experience. What could be improved and done differently in future to ensure this didn’t happen again?

  • Communicate clearly, openly, transparently and honestly – this is not about more ‘telling’ but about more real and active listening, to patients/residents and to staff, and entering into a dialogue where all can have a voice and be heard.
  • Get the basics right – around care plans, staff induction and training, systems for managing medicines and so on. Keep your eye on the ball and monitor regularly.
  • Be clear about your expectations of your staff, ensure they know what their responsibilities are and give them feedback about how they’re doing.
  • Intervene early if any problems become apparent in order to nip them in the bud. Ignoring a problem, or thinking that it will sort itself out, rarely works and is viewed negatively by others. Act decisively and in a developmental, not punitive, way to encourage learning. Deal with the small stuff – it grinds people down.
  • Recruit well - for behaviour and attitude (compassion, humanity, warmth, respect) not just for experience, and train for skill and competence.
  • Empower staff to make the changes that are needed in day to day care – they know the residents best – and encourage proactivity.

This is not rocket science - it’s actually a lot about common sense and treating people as we would wish to be treated ourselves. An external viewpoint from, for example, QCS partner Employer Solutions, often helps clarity. Learning now, from the failure of others, may just make the difference the next time the inspectors come to call.

Fiona Whiting of Employer Solutions Ltd - QCS Expert Human Resources Contributor

Topics: Uncategorized


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