CARE HOMES - THE TRUTH: Care home staff feel undervalued - union

John Lewis, of UNISON, and (below) Dawn Hodgkins, CQC's inspection manager for adult social care in Lancashire
John Lewis, of UNISON, and (below) Dawn Hodgkins, CQC's inspection manager for adult social care in Lancashire
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Following this week’s investigation into Lancashire’s care homes, union bosses and former workers have criticised the level of training within the sector . . .

Union bosses have revealed fears of an “urgent need” to rethink the organisation of care.

Dawn Hodgkins, CQC

Dawn Hodgkins, CQC

Chiefs have hit out at a lack of quality training within the care home sector, saying there was a “serious problem” with staff feeling undervalued.

But providers said they were committed to training, and strived to have a well trained, motivated workforce.

John Lewis, UNISON North West’s head of local government, said the sector suffered from underfunding, and shifts could be understaffed.

He said: “The overall level of training and qualifications across the sector is low and the minimum requirements on care homes to provide a proportion of trained staff have been removed.

“Care workers are increasingly expected to carry out medical treatments that were previously done by nurses, with no extra training.

“Training on food hygiene and infection control is sometimes not provided to staff.

“There is an urgent need for our society to think again about how we organise care.

“This is important work, and there should be enough well-paid and well-trained care workers to provide excellent services.”

Karen Atkinson, GMB regional organiser for the North West, added that she thought there was a lack of “quality training”, because there were often not enough staff.

One Lancashire man who worked in a care home from his late teens to early 20s said: “The care I feel was okay. I knew it wasn’t my career so I wasn’t that bothered about being fully trained.

“Sometimes I felt I was too in at the deep-end. It was hard sitting with people at their end of life, surrounded by their family. It was a strange thing as an eighteen-year-old.”

The care home worker suggested that staffing issues could be due to low pay.

He added: “If you’re paying minimum wage you sometimes don’t get highly skilled, highly qualified members of staff but that’s not to say that the people I worked with weren’t very good and skilled at the job, but sometimes you get what you pay for.”

Dawn Hodgkins, CQC’s inspection manager for adult social care in Lancashire, said the CQC did not stipulate mandatory training for providers, but did assess quality of training and required that providers worked to best practice guidance standards.

She said: “Any health and social care providers registered with CQC must make sure that at all times there are sufficient numbers of suitably qualified, skilled and experienced staff employed to provide care.

“Under its new approach, CQC intends to be much more specific than it has been previously about what it expects of how staff skills are developed; so that carers are both able to do the work required of them and understand the purpose and importance of that work.

“The provision of training alone, however, does not always guarantee good quality care. It is just as important that the right culture exists within a care home and that staff are supported in an ongoing way to develop the values that underpin quality care. This is something that CQC looks at very carefully when it asks if a care home is well led.”

A spokesman for provider Four Seasons Health Care said quality of care was fundamental to maintaining occupancy.

He said: “This is best achieved by having a well-trained and motivated workforce and co-operative employee relations. We are committed to training and provide innovative e-learning courses, introduced in response to employee research that said they wanted flexible training methods.”

The spokesman added: “Four Seasons Health Care signed a land-mark voluntary joint union recognition agreement with the GMB, the Royal College of Nursing and UNISON, covering more than 30,000 staff.

“This is the first such joint agreement between a major independent care provider and these unions. We consult with the unions about the development of our training programmes.”

Julie Stephens, people director at Bupa care services, said they went “beyond mandatory training”, and invested more than £12m each year in training and development.

She said: “We have a ground-breaking training programme for our staff – Person First, dementia second – which was specially created for us by world-renowned Bradford University Dementia Group.”

HC-One’s head of people and organisational development, Alison Innes-Farquhar, said the company’s “Touch” learning and development programme provided colleagues with an “outstanding” level of training.

Professor Martin Green OBE, chief executive of Care England, said: “Training is very important for care staff in homes but should not be seen as an end in itself but should be linked to better outcomes for residents.

“In addition there needs to be more funding for training in social care settings.”