Supporting Care Homes to Embed Improvement by Rosalyn Davies, Programme Lead, Care Home Cymru, Improvement Cymru

The impact of the pandemic on the care sector has been considerable and must not be underestimated. COVID19 resulted in a number of deaths in care homes across the UK which has been devastating for residents, their families, carers and their local communities. Many residents and staff have lost friends and colleagues and the emotional impact of this is yet to be clearly realised. Life in a care home has been transformed and the impositions of the pandemic has resulted in a lot of change.

COVID19 also had a significant impact on the progress of our three year programme to support Care Homes in Wales to learn, work and test improvement skills and knowledge. This means we will be continuing to deliver training to the remaining care homes that we began to work with before the pandemic into next year.  As we start to emerge from the pandemic there is also time for reflection and realisation of what ‘actually happened’ and to look back on what we managed to achieve.

During the last eighteen months, Improvement Cymru has been able to provide an offer of support to the care sector with the work aligned to Welsh Government and Public Health Wales COVID19 priorities.

At the start of the pandemic and in partnership with Social Care Wales and Age Cymru, we established a peer support platform for care home managers.  Called the ‘Cwtch’ its purpose was to support care homes across Wales to manage the daily activities of the home during the pandemic through shared learning from other care providers. The network helped to share practical day to day solutions, problem solve to support improvements and innovations and support and offer peer supervision for staff within the sector;  all with a main purpose to achieve better outcomes for their residents and staff.  In addition care home managers requested ‘bite size nuggets’ of information on a wide range of topics for extended learning for their staff.  In response the team developed a learning platform for Information and Skill Building, with key themes identified by attendees. As of May this year, peer support for the ‘Cwtch’ moved to be delivered by Social Care Wales as this fits well with their key priorities and we look forward to more partnership working as we move forward. .  

The Care Home Digital App and Website was also launched in March 2021 and to date over 284 members have joined with over 7900 interactions.  The users of the app have welcomed the opportunity for a single point of accessible information.  The digital app has the opportunity to engage in ‘real time’ with front line staff.  For example, we’re able to send topical push notifications to care home app users.  

Despite the pause in delivering the ‘improvement agenda’ care homes have still utilised the knowledge base of improvement during the pandemic, albeit not in a formal capacity.  A great example of this came from work in a number of care homes in Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. Work took place to successfully reduce the process time for sampling and testing their staff on a weekly basis by picking up tips from test centre staff, utilising improvement tools taught to the team previously and conducting PDSA cycles on each weekly test. We look forward to delivering Improvement in Practice training in the remaining care homes who started the training before the pandemic so that they can use these skills in the future too.   

Working with the homes who wished to access our Improvement in Practice training has shown that there is a need to focus on what goes right as well as learning from what goes wrong to increase proactivity by building a system for learning.  Recognising that safety is more than the absence of physical harm; it is also the pursuit of dignity and equity.

Looking forward, the need for residential and nursing care is increasing in Wales.  People with care needs are requiring greater support with an increase in complex health conditions. Therefore it’s easy to see how the new Improvement Cymru strategy that we are developing to support patient safety over the next 5 years is just as relevant to this sector as it is in hospital settings and we look forward to supporting its delivery going forward.

Our new strategy will be launched on 17 September, World Patient Safety Day. Follow our channels for the latest updates.