The long hot summer of 2018 has bought temperatures across the country that look set to be record breaking while social media has been used to remind us that in the UK we are rarely happy with the weather! And, as the parliamentary recess starts and MPs go on holiday, the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, has given his first speech and set out his initial priorities for health and care: workforce; technology; and prevention, as well as reasserting the Government’s commitment to a “comprehensive green paper on social care in the autumn.”
it is heart-breaking to see how undervalued you often feel… So I have a clear message: I value you. I admire you. I will fight for you and I will champion you
It is excellent to have such a strong, clear statement on the value of the workforce and recognition that it is staff in care and health services that improve the lives of millions of people everyday. He said: “ … it is heart-breaking to see how undervalued you often feel… So I have a clear message: I value you. I admire you. I will fight for you and I will champion you.” Wow – when was the last time you heard a speech with words such as those from the most senior politician responsible for care and health provision including the NHS?
He went on to make clear what this means in practice highlighting the launch of a consultation exercise on workforce issues, including training and development, a proper career structure for the care sector, the importance of apprenticeships, succession planning, and encouraging a culture within care and health services of mutual respect. And he had a lot to say about the role of front-line managers.
The Relatives & Residents Association welcomes this focus of the workforce. We want to see those that work in the care sector recognised for the professionals that they are, appropriately trained, qualified and rewarded – and as valued as other professionals working within healthcare services provided by the NHS. Many of those working in the care sector do so because they want to ‘make a difference’ – it’s not just a job! Of course, public perceptions of the work as low skilled and low paid further undermines efforts to overcome the high turnover that has come to characterise an undervalued workforce. These early comments from the Secretary of State on valuing the care and health workforce and involving them are therefore very encouraging.
Training and development is vital to ensuring good quality care provision by staff equipped for the intricate task of providing care and support to people with increasingly complex needs. The Relatives & Residents Association would like to see minimum standards of training, much like mandatory training around matters of health and safety. It seems incredible that in the 21st century we don’t have minimum requirements for understanding dementia or delivering personalised care and support, let alone oral health or attention the hearing and sight impairment. Skills in the provision of care and support should match the qualification framework, link to a career structure and minimum training certification and thereby to a ‘license to practice’. Surely, it is the least that people receiving care and support should expect?
Des Kelly OBE
26 July 2018