02nd October 2016

The Necessity of Policy… Discuss!

Close-up of woman hands holding open book. Reading.Please do not throw things at your computer screen once you have read the title. The word itself can conjure up dry crinkled paper with a musty smell and scrooge like figures scribing with thick veiny ink telling you bureaucracy is for your own good!

Smug Moments

Well I think we have all been told things are for our own good in our own personal experiences.

My most smug moment was sitting almost on top of an electric fire with it whacked up high, in my own first home, with my father able to do very little but look annoyed! As a child we would put on an extra layer rather than put the fires on. I think if I had understood that we did not have the money to heat those fires, it would have helped my brain process and accept the situation.

So to policy. Sometimes it is not rationalised to us why it is so important, or perhaps other people’s agendas are, just that, not important to us. But I suspect that in most cases it is the act of caring that is why we do what we do – and the other can seem a layer of annoyance set to distract.

The Evils of Policy

As a policy writer, I do know the evils of policy writing. A simple problem or incident can at times be a large policy receptacle to bung everything into. The knock on effect can be large for staff trying to adhere to it, and every care must be taken to ensure it is written concisely to yield the greatest results to protect and enable.

Definition of Policy

There are a lot of very airy explanations of what policy actually is but the explanation here is helpful. “Policies and procedures are designed to influence and determine all major decisions and actions, and all activities take place within the boundaries set by them. Procedures are the specific methods employed to express policies in action in day-to-day operations of the organization. Together, policies and procedures ensure that a point of view held by the governing body of an organization is translated into steps that result in an outcome compatible with that view.”

What Effects Policy?

Policy is effected by legal requirements such as Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014:

Regulation 17  ‘Good Governance, experience of an organisation and aspirations of its future. It is often written for a host of audiences, reassuring people who use the service, regulators and agencies as well as to staff.

With all that in mind it still needs to be clear to every audience. At times policy needs to use specific terms, but wherever possible language should be plain and to the point. The Net Lawman website wisely says ‘In most situations in modern society, responsibility for understanding communication lies with the message giver, not the receiver. If you want the listener to understand your message, you are obliged to make clear what you say. When you write, you must write a clear message.’

Policy – A Universal Language

Policy is not just for Health and Social Care; our world revolves around it as a universal language. From cookie policies on your mobile, to returns policies in the supermarket, they are a necessity.

Former lecturer in sports management, author and Olympian Leo Isaac wisely states “From the point of view of the business of organisation manager, policies provide really useful and necessary assistance. The manager cannot be everywhere all the time to ensure staff carry out their tasks correctly and responsibly. Instead the manager will develop and communicate policies, and ask staff to read and adhere to them. Therefore, policies help to decrease the amount of direct supervision by the manager, and at the same time increase the efficiency of work processes”.

Have Tea with your Policy

Have a cup of tea with your policies if you have not had the time recently, you might enjoy it in part! If policy is left on a shelf it will benefit no one. By engaging with it and knowing it, you can pass on the knowledge and prepare and equip staff to deal with the eventualities which do and could arise.

CQC’s own Policy Non-Compliance

CQC made news themselves when there was recently a breach of personal information. Whilst their Newcastle office received refurbishment, a filing cabinet with 4 leaver arch files with up to 500 copies of disclosure certificates were found to be missing from the Citygate offices. http://www.cqc.org.uk/content/cqc-publishes-independent-review-data-security-breach

An independent review by Chris Hurran found that policies were in place for the organisation, but not all staff had adhered to them. One line reads ‘Tolerance by an organisation’s management of non-compliance with policy undermines the effectiveness of policy generally and gives employees implicit licence to pick and choose which policies they will comply with and which they will ignore.’

So… whether we are in love with policy or simply live with it, it can protect, enable and work for the people you support, and your organisation… if you set aside the time to make sure it reflects your needs and share it in a meaningful way with those who need to know. That could be depending on the audience;

  • 1-1s for some,
  • Team meetings
  • Visual Aids such as PowerPoint and posters
  • Quick guides
  • Mixed discussion groups
  • Training packages in person or online

QCS Policies

QCS constantly work for you to review the usability of policies and update with changes in legislation. Their new look policies will support you to have the grasp you need to balance the ultimate goal of policy management with quality care.

Keeping Warm this Winter

This winter I will still be sitting near the fire… although I will try an extra layer before I resort to cranking up the heat.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Abi Spence

Registration and Inspection Specialist

Abi has worked for and with Government agencies relevant to social care for the past 12+ years. Primarily with the Department of Health, Social Services Inspectorate, Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and since its inception the Care Quality Commission (CQC). As part of this long involvement Abi has developed a wide and detailed understanding of relevant issues and has worked closely with stakeholders such as people that use services, carers, providers, local government, the Department of Health, Ofsted and the Audit Commission. Read more

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