Janina Sweetenham: Working to ensure highest standards of social care for those most in need

Leuchie House is dedicated to providing caring respite breaks for people and their families living with long term conditions
Leuchie House is dedicated to providing caring respite breaks for people and their families living with long term conditions
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The Scottish Government recently launched the nation’s new health and social care standards, setting out the level of service we should all expect when using any part of the care system.

Unless you work in the sector, this news may well have passed you by among all the high-profile headlines of late. However, these new standards, due to be effective from April 2018, are set to make a significant difference to the experience every one of us will have in any type of care setting we use in the future.

Janina Sweetenham, Head of Operations, Leuchie House

Janina Sweetenham, Head of Operations, Leuchie House

The focus for all care provision will now be firmly on people, human rights, and on improving our experience of care by achieving five new outcomes. The standards will apply equally to care provided in hospitals, care homes, nurseries, at home and all other care settings.

At Leuchie House, we welcome the new standards wholeheartedly. The outcomes and the principles which underpin them have already been likened to the Five Star Philosophy we have developed at Leuchie over the past few years and which is instilled in all our practices and procedures, and – crucially – in all our staff.

Having gone through this kind of process ourselves, we can recognise that a major leadership and culture change is going to be needed to implement the new standards across the health and social care system, and know how challenging that can be. It goes without saying that the standards alone won’t transform people’s experiences of care. Whether they make a difference will depend on the approach of both the people who will deliver them and the receptiveness of the people who access the care.

When talking about culture change in our training at Leuchie, I always find it helpful to remind people that the word “culture” comes from “agriculture”, and retains the obvious connections to nurturing, growth and development. Just like any crop, people need to be supported to grow, then tended and nurtured on an ongoing basis to achieve their full potential. This has been at the heart of implementing our Five Star Philosophy and will be the approach we take to adapting to the new Scottish standards. This is very much a work-in-progress for Leuchie too.

From recruitment to job descriptions to management structures at Leuchie, individual and lead responsibility for assuring quality is identified and owned. We train our staff to live and breathe the standards we expect – that’s why we’ve called it our “philosophy” – being constantly open to new ideas, having a can-do attitude, dealing well with unexpected events and, of course, putting the dignity, respect and choice of our guests at the heart of the high quality care we deliver. We ensure this is a dynamic progressive process through continual guest, carer and staff evaluation and monitoring.

This is not without its challenges in this time of national shortages of both registered nurses and care staff, as well as tightening budgets.

Staff who embody the spirit of the standards is obviously only part of the picture, however. Implementation of the new standards is also going to require much more of a partnership approach than ever before.

The new standards effectively move the system from being about transactions to a focus on achieving transformations. Another major culture shift, particularly for regular users of health and social care services.

At Leuchie, we aim to achieve this by ensuring our service-users – our guests – are partners in the planning and delivery of their care and all the other services we offer them, by putting them at the heart of all the decision making that affects them.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but for people who have been used to a system where care is provided to them, rather than with them at its heart, this requires a very different mindset. Leuchie guests contribute actively to decisions about their care, their treatment, the activities they take part in, the outings they go on, the food they eat and so on. We also place a major focus on personal achievement, facilitating the little things wherever we can, and the big things that help guests feel fulfilled.

The best barometer for us that we are achieving our Five Star Standards is of course the impact of a Leuchie break on our guests – the transformation I referred to earlier. So we warmly welcome the new standards and take on board all that will be required to implement them. If they can help Scotland’s health and social care sector achieve many more experiences of great care like this, then we can all be very proud of the society we live in.

Janina Sweetenham is head of operations at Leuchie House, North Berwick