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Can you handle this?
We are in that weird twilight zone at work where the Ofsted inspection is just overdue and we are anticipating a visit any day. Right now, we just want the Ofsted woman to show up so we can get it over with, because every day we are worrying about a different aspect of regulation that we might fall down on. Today it was service user involvement in quality improvement.
This is not unrelated to the fact that I have been whiling away my time recently perusing the results of the Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework, which are presented in a natty searchable website so you can compare your region or area with the achievements of others in England against the results of 2012/13 audit (http://ascof.hscic.gov.uk/). Looking into outcome measure 3 got me thinking about how we secure the involvement of service users in measuring service quality.
Outcome measure 3a relates to satisfaction with care services and matches to question 1 in the Easy Read Adult Social Care questionnaire. This asks “How happy are you with the way staff help you?” and provides five possible responses to choose from, ranging from “really good” to “really bad” options. The results overall for 2012/13 in England suggest that 75% of people with learning disability questioned opted for “I am very happy with the way staff help me, it's really good” which is the most positive response. Only 0.7% voted for the least favourable comment. Whew – we all breathe a sigh of relief.
So should we be smug? Well that depends on whether we feel a questionnaire such as this really gets to the true feelings of our service users or is relevant to those who cannot participate independently of carers. Only 398 people responded to the question for the purpose of collecting this data – hardly a representative sample of those using learning disability services.
So if we are asked how we gauge the view of service users on service quality, can we honestly say that we have it covered? There are ways that you can get a more honest and objective view, if you can handle the potential criticism.
Quality Assessors are people with a learning disability who are part of The Quality Company, www.thequalitycompany.co.uk who provide an independent assessment service, both for providers and for people with learning disabilities to commission. Our adult services have commissioned this company to provide valuable feedback on the service user perspective of care. It can be uncomfortable to be scrutinised (for me, as bad as any Ofsted or CQC inspection!) but the outcomes for our service users are obvious; we need to be inspected by the people we support. Without that valuable feedback, we can never be confident of the impact and fit of the service we are providing.