Journalist Camilla Cavendish has just finished her review of care and patient safety in the NHS looking particularly at the issue of care. It is really interesting that this job has been given to a journalist, which speaks volumes about the NHS, but her report and findings can only be welcomed.

Let me make some comparisons.

1. Basic training: even what some people call basic jobs need basic training. Let us take some other industry comparisons. If you are going to work in catering you need a basic food hygiene certificate, and what we are hearing is that some care assistants don’t even have the equivalent of that. Given that we have had problems with super bugs and infection control, this is surely a major oversight. If you work in manufacturing, you have to have your “ticket” before they will let you loose on a piece of equipment. Skill matrices are almost a minimum requirement these days, you have to know who is qualified to do what. Days when I could just jump on and drive a forklift truck have gone, and rightly so. I have to do a short manual lifting training course to work in a University, and in some cases we aren’t teaching care assistants to lift patients!

2. Valuing the job: if you don’t value the job then don’t expect anything back. The NHS are probably over relying on the good will of these people because they are there for the patient to get them through. It is actually the “little” jobs that make the difference and these are usually the customer or patient facing ones. Why does Disney spend so much time on recruiting their cleaners and other junior staff? It is simple; because these are the people that make a real difference so you have to understand what they need to do and select people who will do that well, consistently and in the right way.
It is almost unbelievable that there isn’t a basic certificate. Has the organisation completely forgotten about 1,000,000 staff? They are also the people who have the most contact with the patients, they should be the eyes and ears of the organisation, but if they are not trained or valued then you get back what you put in. Better hospitals has induction and training schemes, but those that don’t can only expect poor care, poorer clinical outcomes and higher costs.

This is fundamental basic management, and people need to understand how everyone contributes to the success or failure of the organisation.

Mike Bourne

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