I visited 16 services last week and was impressed with a lot of what I saw. For example, I spoke to someone we support at 59 Bury Road in Hampshire who told me how much she was looking forward to going to her voluntary job at the Sue Ryder foundation. When I asked her why, she said it was because she had made friends there that she really liked. A member of staff also told me how well this lady had done learning valuable travel skills, catching the bus there and back. Next door at 57 Bury Road, I observed some really good active support and I was particularly impressed by the excellent rapport of the staff at our Old Street service with the profoundly disabled people that they support. I also came across one service where I was concerned that there wasn’t a great deal happening. But checking the daily diaries demonstrated, that whilst people were doing some in-house activity, there is scope for them to do a lot more and this is something we are going to address. I regularly look at daily diaries on my visits to CMG services and they are a really good guide as to the quality of life that people are having.
A challenge for us in some areas is recruiting and retaining good staff. Pay can be an issue, but I think sometimes we recruit the wrong staff who we subsequently dismiss and I’m not sure we always support new staff well enough. Working in care, particularly with people with complex or profound disabilities or very challenging behaviours, can be an overwhelming experience and in some cases, I don’t think we give some people, new to care, the level of support that they need. I have always been extremely impressed by the calibre of staff recruited by Debbie Leinster, our Old Street Manager. When I was there on Friday, I was once again impressed that every single member of staff I met was lovely and I would have been very happy if they were supporting a member of my family. I spoke to Debbie about how she ensures that she only recruits the right people. She is very picky and looks specifically for people with get up and go who are also kind and caring. She also makes sure that they spend time with the people living in Old Street and she will only select staff who interact positively and respectfully with them. Once new starters start, she makes sure to keep an eye out for them and checks regularly with them whether they are okay. She monitors their confidence levels and gradually exposes them to additional responsibilities at a pace that is right for them. She has an open door policy and staff know that they can approach her at any time. I know these all sound obvious, but I’m not sure they happen everywhere. We are going to be running workshops on recruitment and retention for our managers to make sure everyone is able to perform to the same standard.
We have just completed the second round of our consultation process with staff representatives discussing proposed changes to our sick pay policy linked to pay rises. Sarah Evans, our Head of HR and I have been round the country to meet ten different staff representatives groups in this second round and we did the same in the our first round about six weeks ago. Every CMG service has a staff representative and we meet them on a regional basis. I have been extremely impressed with their positive attitude and we have had a really good dialogue with them. They weren’t keen on our initial proposal so we completely changed it. All the points contained in our revised proposal have come from the staff representatives and generally it has been well received. We will be making a final decision, based on their feedback, in the next couple of weeks and will be writing to people to give them one final opportunity to comment.
On the subject of proposals, we have now finalised our proposal on behalf of the provider sector in England as to how we can help implement NHS England’s Transforming Care (Winterbourne View) programme to move more people from assessment and treatment units and develop appropriate services in the community for people who present significant challenges. I think it is a really good proposal and it reflects the genuine desire by providers to help these complex people live good quality lives in the community as they deserve. We will hopefully be discussing it with NHS England later this week.
On a final point, I attended a positive behaviour support network meeting in Surrey last week run by the county council. I was very impressed to see a number of family members there actively engaged. I think some Local Authorities are better than others at engaging with and listening to families and I would like to pay tribute to Surrey working with families as partners and recognising the expertise that they bring.