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26th July 2013

Learning how to provide good care – what Cavendish says

The Cavendish Committee, chaired by journalist Camilla Cavendish has recently reported on how health and social care is being delivered by unregistered staff, described in the report as health care assistants in the NHS and support workers in the social care sector. There has been a lot of focus in recent weeks on health care staff reflecting concerns about the state of the NHS, but the report acknowledges the social care workforce is much bigger. The report looked at the state of training for the large group of people providing hands on care. The report acknowledged there is a lot of training going on, but criticised the fact that it was often undertaken by staff on their own, not linked to supervision, and sometimes done as a mere tick box exercise. The report recommends a Certificate of Fundamental Care which should be achieved by all support workers in social care before being allowed to work unsupervised, and that this qualification should be undertaken as a taught course along with other workers.

This recommendation made me reflect on my own experience of delivering teaching for a nationally recognised City and Guilds qualification for staff working in the field of mental health care, called the Certificate in Working in Community Mental Health Care. This course was launched as a response to an inquiry into the killing of Jonathan Newby who was a volunteer working in a mental health hostel. The inquiry report noted that people working most directly with service users with severe problems were often the least trained staff in the field of mental health. I’m sure some of the conclusions I came to after teaching this course could equally apply to a new Certificate in Fundamental Care:

  • Sharing and drawing on experiences with other workers is perhaps the most valuable learning tool of all
  • It may be difficult to teach values, but students can be encouraged to think about where their values come from, and how they would expect to be cared for
  • Working together on a project or an assignment can help foster a team working spirit that is so important in a caring setting
  • Attending a taught course means you are exposed to current thinking and recent policy developments. Staff who received a qualification a long time ago might not get this.
  • Undertaking a first qualification for staff can be daunting. Students, and their teachers and employers should not underestimate the rigours of a course of study, particularly for people who last studied when they were at school, and that might have been some time ago!
  • Getting a basic qualification can be a stepping stone to going onto do more! A number of students I taught went on to do formal nurse or social work training and achieved promotions in their field of work.

The government’s response to the Cavendish Review is expected in the autumn. For more detail on the idea of a Certificate of Fundamental Care have a look at The Cavendish Review available here:  The Cavendish Review

David Beckingham - QCS Expert Contributor on Mental Health


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