The terrible abuse exposed at The Old Deanery Care Home in Essex on last week’s Panorama documentary has appalled anyone with even a passing interest in the care of older people and has been condemned by a whole range of organisations within the social care sector. One member of staff has been summarily dismissed, several suspended and at the time of writing, Essex Police are investigating the possibility of criminal prosecution of those involved in this shocking case.
Thankfully, cases such as this remain relatively rare and are unrepresentative of the huge amount of excellent work that social care providers carry out to support frail and vulnerable older people.
However, we would be foolish not to use this as an opportunity to reflect on and examine the effectiveness of our own safeguarding and whistleblowing practices. Read on to ensure that you are doing everything within your power to ensure that your own residents are safe, well cared for and treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
5 Simple Checks for an Effective Safeguarding Practice
Even within previously well run and well-regarded care services, a culture of poor practice and ‘turning a blind eye’ can develop over time, potentially leading to incidents of serious abuse. Changes of management or ownership or a high turnover of staff may mean that the continuity, supervision and support that are required to ensure good standards of care are lacking and standards can quickly spiral downwards without your intervention.
Follow Our 5 Checks to Ensure Your Safeguarding Practice Really Delivers
- Do you go beyond standard, mandatory safeguarding training? Theory-based training without a link to practice is rarely effective. Consider giving your staff mock safeguarding alerts to deal with outside of formal training sessions and ask them questions about potential scenarios with actual residents to see how they respond.
- Do your staff fully understand their whistleblowing responsibilities? Care staff frequently tell Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors that they would report concerns to a nurse or manager but do they know what to do if this doesn’t lead to any action? Consider providing the CQC guidance on whistleblowing on your staff noticeboards or displaying posters for the Whistleblowing Helpline so that staff have independent sources of advice to refer to.
- Do you include discussion of safeguarding and whistleblowing in supervision and at staff meetings? Including these as standard items is an excellent way to show your commitment to good safeguarding practice and to provide staff with the opportunity to discuss any concerns they might have.
- Are your recruitment practices delivering the results you really need? You will certainly carry out a range of pre-employment checks but do you consider how you can assess the values of potential candidates before you make an employment decision? Consider tools such as values-based questions or psychometric testing to reduce the likelihood of recruiting staff whose values might not be compatible with your expectations.
- Finally, but most importantly, do you speak to your residents and their families regularly enough? Managers lead busy lives and, particularly in larger homes, it can be challenging to see every resident regularly. However, residents are more likely to feel able to trust and be honest with a manager who they know well and see often. Your staff may be well trained and knowledgeable but there is no substitute for frequent, good quality personal contact with those people for whom you have responsibility.
Safeguarding service users from abuse forms one of the CQC’s Fundamental Standards. Every month, Care Quality Matters focuses on subjects like this to help Registered Managers pass their CQC inspections. Find out more about Care Quality Matters here.