Social care quality matters

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission.

Rio has a special place in my heart; it was where our honeymoon started eight years ago. So it was wonderful to see it host the 2016 Olympic Games in all its dramatic glory.

And what a Games it was, especially for Team GB and our amazing athletes. The dedication necessary just to be there is awe-inspiring, whether they won or lost. But a plethora of fantastic individual and team performances, resilience under pressure and a fair amount of grit and determination took us to an astonishing second in the medal table.

Olympic joy

A feature of the Olympic Games I love is we are exposed to sports that usually we know nothing about — how many of us became unexpected experts in the intricacies of Taekwondo for example?

Another joy is the wonder of seeing so much women’s sport on prime-time TV. From traditional TV schedules we would be forgiven for thinking that the only sports worth watching are played by men — a perception strengthened by, for example, crass comments like those from John Inverdale forgetting the achievements of women tennis players (credit to Andy Murray for his response though!).

But those perceptions were blown away by a regular stream of incredible endeavour from woman after woman — including Nicola Adams, Jessica Ennis Hill, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Jade Jones, Simone Biles, Laura Trott, the entire British women’s hockey team and so many more.

Social care

It sometimes feels in the adult social care sector that we are a bit like women’s sport overshadowed by the men or, in our case, the health service, which itself is dominated by the caring equivalent of Premier League Football, acute hospitals. Those of us who work in adult social care or who depend upon its services to meet our needs or those of our loved ones know just how important it is. But in the clamour of the debate around the NHS, social care rarely receives the attention it deserves. Or if it does, it’s that obvious afterthought of “and care” in the odd sentence when the rest of the conversation or document is resolutely focused on the language of clinical outcomes, patients and clinicians.

Quality

This lack of profile and diminution of status worried the participants at the quality round table held last week at Skills for Care. There was ready acceptance of the collective responsibility for quality by staff, providers, commissioners and national bodies there on the day. We all recognised that listening to and acting upon the voice of people using services, their families and carers was critical and that we still had a lot to do to ensure public confidence in the services on offer.

There were many thoughtful contributions about the principles a quality strategy should include, not least from our opening speaker, Clenton Farquhason who described his lived experience of poor-quality care and the impact it had on him. Helpfully Clenton’s speech is now on the Independent Age website as a blog which you can read here.

We were not just concentrating on that big picture but also on the practical details that could make a difference to people. How to ensure that people’s concerns are dealt with speedily and appropriately being one good example.

Nagging worry

But underpinning the conversation and the enthusiasm to make a difference, there was a nagging worry. Was this just going to be another encouraging conversation full of good intentions that goes nowhere? What do we need to do to ensure that adult social care is truly acknowledged for its vitally important role? How do we ensure that there is political will and greater public support for the sector?

These are important questions and we will need to work with others — for example leaders in the NHS and politicians of all parties — to raise the profile of adult social care and ensure the needs of people using social care services are truly taken into account. Their support for making quality matter in social care will be crucial.

Team Social Care

But the answer lies with the adult social care sector too, with a clear recognition that quality matters and we all need to play an active part, collectively and individually, in celebrating great care and addressing the shortfalls we see.

At CQC we will play our part to set clear expectations, monitor, inspect and rate services, shine a spotlight on good and outstanding, and tackle poor care when we see it. But, however hard we work to encourage improvement, we cannot do it alone nor can regulation and inspection be seen as the only way to secure good quality care. It will take a joint — perhaps an Olympian — effort from everyone in Team Social Care to get us there but, for the sake of people using adult social care services, that’s just what we have to do.


Originally published at www.cqc.org.uk.

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