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22nd August 2014

Achieving Excellence in Care Services

Multiethnic Arms Raised Holding Text ExcellenceApparent neglect in Hospitals, Serious case reviews, graphic TV documentaries of abuse in some care settings. It would be easy in the face of all this to decide that social care is in crisis today.

However, there is another side to social care which less often comes to the public eye. That is, the drive toward excellence in providing care and support.

I believe the pursuit of excellence can be an antidote to the bad situations we hear about in care services. This can not only minimise any poor practice in services aiming for the best: it can set a standard for other services to reach, and it can raise public expectations of all services, making poor practice bad business and unlikely to survive.

Goal of excellence

In Scotland, the government has been pursuing this goal of excellence in social work and care services since the 1990s. A white paper "Aiming for Excellence" was published in 1999. Through new legislation, and two successive regulatory bodies, we have built up public criteria for, and reporting of, excellence. The task of the current Care Inspectorate is to monitor and to help services with their improvement and development, in order to aim for excellence.

And it is being reached. Yes, poor practice does occur, and needs to be detected and dealt with. But there is a pattern of gradual improvement in all services, measured by the objective grading criteria which are available. A select group of services do attain excellence in some or all of the areas regulated. It is a joy to deal with such services, either as inspector, staff, customer or other stakeholder.

What are the ingredients of excellence? The Care Inspectorate says that such services are rigorous (I prefer the word passionate!) about opportunities for improvement, and high quality is sustainable, and built in.

Passion for improvement

A passion for improvement, involving people in all aspects of the service, attaining quality outcomes for support, and strong evidence of quality in self-assessment and auditing are other features of excellence.

Excellence is the antidote to poor practice at all levels. It requires recruiters involving people using the service to carefully select people-centred, empathic people at all levels; manager, care staff, senior executives. It requires staff to persist in addressing support issues and to do so creatively and positively. Also, it requires inspectors to be clear and courageous in their judgements, as well as in promoting, across the care sector, the best practice which they find.

I think we need to shout out about excellence when we see it: and in a forum like this we can take steps to discuss and promote examples and aspects of excellence in services which, after all, are likely to touch, at some time, all of our lives.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Tony Clarke

Scottish Care Inspectorate Specialist

Tony began care work as a care assistant in care of the elderly here in Scotland in the 1970s. He very much enjoyed promoting activities, interests and good basic care. After a gap to gain a social work qualification, he worked in management of care services, latterly as a peripatetic manager which gave him experience of a wide range of services.

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