The search for solutions to make a positive measureable impact on the social and health care workforce

The domiciliary care workforce is under huge pressure – and with staff turnover and sickness levels so high, there is a clear need for support in this sector. In this blog, Roger McDermott, Senior Programme Manager at the West of England AHSN, shares his insights into the issues and needs – and explains the importance of the search for solutions that could make a positive, measureable impact on this workforce.

Being involved in the Domiciliary Care Workforce Challenge, [a recently launched nationwide call to find innovation solutions to support the domiciliary health and social care workforce] has taught me a lot about the issues facing this sector.

From 25-minute appointments, unpaid travel time and issues with communicating with base, to the challenge of not knowing what you might be facing that day, and generally starting on the back foot from the first appointment, being a domiciliary care worker is tough.  On top of all this, social care providers compete for individual contracts on price, which puts further pressure for resources to develop and retain staff.

The challenges of the job are reflected in the data, with a 46% staff turnover rate in social domiciliary care in the South West and an average of 5.5 sick days taken with 5% of this particular workforce requiring more than 20 days sickness leave a year [i].  Imagine trying to run a business where nearly half of your staff leave the organisation every year?

There are also many differences between the challenges faced by the social care workforce and the NHS workforce, such as the frustration of clinicians having to return to multiple bases so they can write up hand written notes, rather than focus more time on the patient.

But there are also glimmers of light and through my conversations with people working in this sector, there are approaches we can learn from.  For example, I’ve been told about domiciliary social care workers who are paid directly by the service user. Consequently they have more control over their hours of work and pay, feel they can provide improved care, resulting in higher levels of satisfaction for both client and carer. We have also learned about a micro-provider development programme in Somerset that helps carers become sole traders, rather than employees of their clients, which can lead to further complications.

All of the issues – coupled with lack of funding in the sector – does mean, however, that there are huge opportunities for improvement. Are there innovative approaches we can adopt to improve staff wellbeing or development? How might we increase diversity and inclusion in the workforce? Are there solutions we can adopt to support leadership, management, administration and the back office? And a key opportunity for improvement has to be around how we can improve communication and collaboration between the NHS and social care.

So it’s really exciting to be managing a challenge whereby we are looking for innovations and solutions that could deliver measurable improvements for this workforce.

What’s really exciting is that the solution could come from anywhere – it could come from within the health and social care sector or from somewhere else. It could be a domiciliary care organisation in another part of the country that has developed a toolkit suitable for adoption and spread. Or there might be an industry solution that could be adapted to work in this sector, such as a small company that provides services to utility companies, where staff are on the road and providing home services.

We’re really keen to hear from a range of innovators from a range of backgrounds, and so if you think you have a solution that could make a positive and measurable impact on this workforce, I really urge you to visit the website for further information.

I’m also running a series of Q&A sessions to chat the challenge through with prospective applicants, so do join one of those if you have any questions before you apply.

Applications need to be in by 31 May 2021. Top tip – make sure your application responds to the challenge brief and clearly demonstrates how your innovation will support the domiciliary care workforce and improve the workforce indicators.

When we have agreed on the successful solution(s), we will then be looking to find suitable host organisations in order to trial them, undertake a real-world evaluation and make recommendations on further adoption and spread.

I look forward to receiving your application soon!

[i] Based on demographic data of 39,000 independent sector, direct care workers, in the South West. Source: Adult social care workforce data, Skills for Care.

Posted on April 16, 2021 by Roger McDermott, Senior Programme Manager at the West of England AHSN

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