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Understanding the system as a whole

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Community care, Social care
Isobel Stephen GOV.UK image
Isobel Stephen

As the mother of young children, I spend a lot more time thinking about supporting people at the beginning of their lives than towards the end of their lives. But my daughters are statistically likely to live to be a hundred – a strange thought. So, I seized a recent opportunity to connect with a care home close to where I live in south west London and find out more about what some of the issues might be, alongside my colleague Clara Swinson, Director of Social Care Policy.

Galsworthy House is on Kingston Hill and backs onto Richmond Park. It’s a grand and historic (if sometimes impractical) building in a lovely setting, and you can see why the rooms with a view of the Park are sought after. Most of the residents are in their nineties, which I calculated means that they were teenagers during the Second World War; probably having their children during the 50s; would be retiring by the 80s when I was still at primary school, and turned 70 whilst I was at university. It’s mindboggling to think just how much they have all seen and experienced, and sobering to be forced to confront how intense the support they need is. It made me ask questions about how much respect society accords to its most senior members.

Galsworthy House is run by a dynamic team headed by 3 impressive women who each bring different skills and experience. The leadership that they demonstrate is palpable and every member of staff that we spoke to – from the care assistants to the nurses, from the physio to the chef – clearly understood their vision of supporting residents to have the best possible quality of life. Clara and I participated in an exercise class and met some of the residents, as well as sampling some delicious food (the team prides itself on the fact that the residents often gain weight after they arrive). The quality of leadership and dedication to the work was impressive: reminding me how essential these skills are in any context.

Although the pastoral support is important, much of what happens at Galsworthy House is essentially medical and it also struck me how important it was for what they were doing to fit into the health and care system as a whole. Galsworthy House are very focused on keeping their residents out of hospital where possible and offering palliative care rather than transferring people to a hospice when their time comes. Clara discussed knowledgably with the team the ins and outs of the available funding streams, which I wasn’t able to contribute to, but the point about the cost of looking after an aging population and the challenge of funding that was obvious.

As a relatively recent recruit to DH, I am a huge fan of the Connecting Programme. It gives me an excellent reason to find out more about what the issues are for real people doing real jobs in the health and social care system. This is partly about helping me to do my job better, but it’s also about understanding and empathising with the whole system – and about what that means throughout the cycle of life.

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  1. Comment by Laurie Harper posted on

    It is concerning that virtually all comment I read about peoples' connecting experiences speaks only of interaction with the staff in hospitals, care homes, etc. I read plenty about seeing things from the point of view of those staff, appreciating how skilled/dedicated they are, the demands they work under and so on, but little if anything about the experience of patients and users of services (aside from statements about how good the services they get are, how they are supported "to have the best possible quality of life", etc).

    I thouight the purpose of the Connnecting Initiative was to ensure we gain a better understanding of how the health and care system operates from the perspective of users of services, so that the chance of another Mid Staffs happening might be lessened. The scandals at Mid Staffs, Winterbourne View, et al were due in good part to the fact that the voices of users of services and their families and even staff who tried to blow the whistle were ignored, whilst those of staff, who (not surprisingly) insisted everything was fine, were believed.

    And yet, almost all of the connecting appears to be with those delivering the services, rather than those on the receiving end. What is the point of that?

    • Replies to Laurie Harper>

      Comment by ConnectingTeam@DH posted on

      Thanks for sharing your comments. I hope we can reassure you that the experience of patients and people who use services really is at the heart of our connecting activities, though it may not always be reflected in these blogs. For instance, our ‘connectors’ routinely speak to patients directly in hospital and community settings, care homes and some even directly in their own homes, whilst accompanying community health workers. Also, DH staff have been able to conduct ‘Friends and Family’ tests with patients and those using services, to get a real insight into the types of care people have received. Shadowing health and care professionals is a central part of our connecting work, and it is often through this work that we come into contact with, and gain first-hand experience of, patient experience. Naturally, we are also interested in the experience of health and care professionals, and their view of patient care, as this helps us build a picture of how the health and care system is working in the round.