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08th July 2020

The Prime Minister is wrong to suggest care providers do not follow procedure

The article was first published on page 4 of the The Carer - Issue 13

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Posing for the cameras in a white hard hat and an ill-fitting high viz jacket, Boris Johnson visited the site of a leading-edge train building facility in Goole, East Yorkshire earlier this week. With the photo opportunity in the bag, Mr Johnson was asked to share his thoughts on how adult social care could be better funded in the future. You’d think his team would have adequately briefed him to provide a few meaningful soundbites to the media. Or worse still, perhaps it did. Whatever the rationale, the PR opportunity that Mr Johnson’s team had worked so hard to curate - spectacularly derailed into the sidings - when he said that some care homes had not followed procedures during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

“We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have, but we’re learning lessons the whole time,” he said.

Mr Johnson’s incendiary comments drew immediate criticism from MP’s, not to mention the care and charity sectors. The CEO of Community Integrated Care, Mark Adams, labelled them “clumsy and cowardly”, while Vic Raynor, the Executive Director of the National Care Forum (NCF), said this Johnson’s comments were “neither accurate or welcome”. She singled out government guidance, saying that it came to the sector “in stops and starts”, while most of it was “not accompanied by an understanding of the operational implications of operating care services”. These are points that QCS agrees with and I’ll revisit them in more detail later in the article.

Setting the record straight

While I don't wish to add my voice to the growing chorus of anger sparked by Mr Johnson’s misinformed views, as the Head of Care Quality for Quality Compliance Systems (QCS), the UK care sector’s leading compliance provider for the care sector, I would like to use this article to set the record straight on compliance. Not so much for us, but for our 86,000 customers, and the thousands of other providers, who between them, have endeavoured to absorb and implement the 100-plus pieces of additional guidance that the government has issued in the last 100 days.

In terms of implementing policy, from working closely with our customers for the last six months, I can say that the vast majority have been ahead of the curve. The same, however, could not be said of the government and some of the public health bodies - especially early on in the Pandemic. There was confusion and conflicting advice around the correct use of PPE, for example. In regard to acquiring it, government policy was muddled and in the early stages it prioritised the needs of healthcare providers over those of the care sector.

Government guidance confusing

But it was the guidance that the government was issuing – sometimes updating it several times a day - that caused the most confusion. Not only did it expect providers to deliver outstanding person-centred care to their service users, it also wrongly assumed that they had the time to track overly complex compliance changes and incorporate the new guidance into their policies.

It wasn’t just unprecedented service delivery pressures that made this task virtually impossible, most of the guidance issued by the government was written from a medical rather than a care sector perspective. Acute hospital scenarios, for instance, which have little to do with the care sector providers, left many scratching their heads.

Finding a solution

In mid-February, a month before the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that the Coronavirus was a global a Pandemic - following daily conversations with our customers and partners - we decided to tackle ‘the one size fits all’ approach to guidance taken by the government.

QCS addressed the compliance challenges by creating a universally free to access Coronavirus Hub. Our aim was to review every new procedure the second it was released, disseminate it into simple language and provide the reader with a series of bespoke and practical action-points.

We began with infection prevention and control policies, but have branched out to create a raft of customised policies and content for a myriad of different scenarios. These include - but aren’t limited to - COVID-19 swabbing, assessing the risk to vulnerable staff groups, self-isolation care plan templates , death in service procedures, easy-to-read guides for service users on social distancing and self-isolation and symptom checks.

Looking to the future

Over the course of the last quarter, we’ve created 25 new policies and procedures, which amount to over 300 pages of content. In May alone, our policies were viewed over 122,000 times and are regularly shared in National Care Forum bulletins, where they are accessed by 120 of the UK’s leading charities

Moving forward, we'll continue to break down government guidance to make it accessible for all, so that providers, in the words of the NCF, can “continue to adopt these new procedures consistently, at pace and with integrity”.

Back in Goole, Boris Johnson talked excitedly about “unleashing the potential of the area”. In the future, the government will need to apply the same positive thinking to every sector. The courageous men and women, who make the care sector what it is, should be at the front of the queue. Why? Because in the words of Liz Jones, the National Care Forum’s Director of Policy, “hospitals help to save people’s lives and social care helps them to live them”.

If Mr Johnson can't see this, he should perhaps keep his hard hat on to avoid the many brickbats that are likely to come his way. Hopefully he and his advisors will see sense. Otherwise, ultimately, a lack of vision regarding the future of the sector will mean that all of us will lose out.

Over to you then, Boris.


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

Philippa Shirtcliffe

QCS Clinical Policy Lead

Philippa Shirtcliffe is Head of quality at QCS. She is a registered nurse with over 30 years working in Health and Social Care. She has had varied career undertaking operational and strategic leadership roles within social care. Read more

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