Shared Know-How The Route To Better Care In Homes

Scotland’s champion for older people in care homes has established a vital learning network to support staff to share and develop their practice and improve the standard of care. Thousands of care home workers, from the public, private and voluntary sectors will have the opportunity to exchange and share vital lessons they learn on the job. The pioneering move will help staff address some of the thorniest issues in care homes – including nutrition, end of life care and caring for people with dementia.

The network is being spearheaded by Belinda Dewar, Scotland’s Nurse Consultant for Older People in Care Homes, who was appointed by the Care Commission earlier this year to support staff to improve standards in care homes.

Belinda said: “Scotland is fortunate to have clear National Care Standards set down by Scottish Ministers which set out the quality of care that residents and their families should expect and work together with staff to achieve. The very clear feedback from care home owners, managers and staff is that they also want to know of ways they can access knowledge and learning to help them improve standards.

“Staff in care homes face  difficult and challenging issues on a daily basis and people come up against new problems every day. What we want to offer is a one stop bank of knowledge where people can practically challenge and overcome those problems by communicating with others in the sector doing a similar job.”

The care home sector in Scotland comprises around 1000 homes, offering 40,000 places and employing around 4000 nursing staff. The new Learning Network is supported by the Care Commission, Scottish Executive, Scottish Care, the Royal College of Nursing and NHS Education Scotland. It will be launched by Care Commission Chief Executive Jacquie Roberts and Paul Martin, the Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland.

The website will allow care home staff access to a central source of information on best practice, innovative techniques and advice gathered. Belinda hopes to have at least 1000 care home staff across Scotland involved in the project by the end of the 2007 and the website will be supported by face to face meetings across the country.

Belinda added: “We will also communicate with the sector via newsletters and an annual conference. Once we identify particular areas of interests we will be able to send carefully targeted emails to the people who need or want them. A lot of guidance on what is best practice is already there. The real challenge is to make sure best practice happens and to sustain it.”

Supporting staff in the sector to improve nutrition for care home residents will be one of the first issues to be taken forward, backed by the Scottish Executive. Nutrition is already a key inspection theme in the Care Commission’s current inspection year.

Belinda said: “From November, we will nominate 100 nutrition champions who, following educational programmes will work with a team of experts to take it forward. Action projects may focus on meal planning in one area, in another area it might be taking forward assessment of malnutrition and in another it might be about how to work with people who need assistance to feed.

“Importantly each champion will work closely with a group of residents and families. Each champion will be working across something like four care homes and they will pull together a group of around a dozen residents and relative to help shape the nature of the change.”

Belinda’s appointment earlier this year was backed and grant-funded by Paul Martin, the Chief Nursing officer for Scotland. It is a two year posting with the Care Commission

Jacquie Roberts, Chief Executive of the Care Commission, said: “Belinda’s appointment earlier this year was a groundbreaking move designed to help us drive up standards of care.  Since then she has worked tirelessly to bring this truly innovative project to fruition. Everyone involved is excited about the support it will provide to staff across the care home sector, regardless of geography or the size of care home involved.

“As a regulator, it is hugely important that we engage with the people in the services we are inspecting and work closely with them to help them achieve the standards we all want to aspire to.”

Paul Martin, the Chief Nursing Officer, said: “I am delighted with the way Belinda’s post is shaping up as we want to see the care of older people improved in every setting – and care homes are an extremely important part of that.”