Matthew Kalupka, co-founder of Surrey-based Home Counties Carers, explains how he and his team are using technology to save time, increase job satisfaction and deliver ‘Outstanding’ domiciliary care.
Anyone working in the health and social care sector today will be familiar with the sustained recruitment and retention challenges facing many providers. Demand for care workers has outstripped supply for a long time, as the UK population gets older and its needs more complex.
Even though the number of people working in adult social care grew in the five years from 2013 (from 1.18 million to 1.27 million), the vacancy rate also rose from 5.5% to 8%, according to the Office of National Statistics. It is estimated that as many as 440,000 employees leave their job every year and that there are around 122,000 posts available at any one time, a Skills for Care report found.
I don’t need to spell out what this means for clients, whether they are being looked after at home or in a residential setting. Despite the fact that continuity and quality of care are essential for health and wellbeing, managers often face a daily struggle to make sure they have enough staff to cover shifts and deliver the basics. Just one person calling in unexpectedly sick can scupper the rota and potentially compromise service.
Given the challenge of recruiting dedicated carers, nobody wants them to leave the profession, especially as demand intensifies. While anti-social hours will always be a fact of life when delivering round-the-clock care, it is incumbent on all providers to create attractive workplaces that encourage capable and compassionate people to consider a career in care.
It is an ethos that has been at the heart of our business, since it was established in 2011. Everyone knows that a demotivated and/or stressed workforce is unlikely to meet the quality care clients and their families expect – which is why we made it our priority to create a positive workplace culture. Then, could we fill our ranks with the right people and, importantly, encourage them to stay.
We certainly count ourselves fortunate that two of our first recruits are still with us today, having moved into more senior roles. As we more staff joined us over the years, we have still been able to ensure continuity of care – something every client and their family values – by investing in the right technology.
Like any business, our goal is to use staff time effectively to deliver the highest standards of service. From the start, we wanted to keep admin and travel to a minimum, so carers could concentrate on spending quality time with clients and build strong relationships with them. Carers look after the same person on a regular basis but when cover is unavoidable, as in the case of holiday or sickness absence, the change clearly communicated in good time.
To achieve this, we use a platform from The Access Group which allows us to manage essential tasks far quicker and more accurately, compared to paper-based processes. Staff availability, rotas, timesheets and pay can all be coordinated via a central system, so we’re able to consistently match clients with the most suitable care workers.
We were, of course, delighted to receive an Outstanding rating from the CQC – and it is worth noting feedback from clients and relatives. They told the regulator that ‘staff were deployed in a way that ensured consistency and punctuality’ and that clients know the team, even if their regular carer is off. They pointed to the system we have in place to schedule staff, based on call times and geographical location, which helps us reduce the amount of time they spend on the road and make sure visits are not rushed. One relative said that the communication was ‘superb’ while someone else said they had only had carer in all the time they had been with us and ‘she is everything I would want’.
It is no exaggeration to say that our business wouldn’t be where it is today without a committed and empathetic workforce, supported by the right technology. Ultimately, we are proud of the fact that our staff have the time and resources to concentrate on the most rewarding aspects of care – so they derive satisfaction from their work and raise the bar even higher.