8 February 2023

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Understanding the value of care homes

Half-day conference on 14 March is an opportunity to celebrate care homes and empower them for the future

With almost half a million residents and more than 700,000 people working in the UK’s 17,000 care homes, this sector has a massive role to play in the care of our elderly relatives.

Long gone are the days when someone would decide to move to a residential care home for companionship. Nowadays people living in care homes, both residential and nursing, have complex needs requiring very skilled and holistic care. A kind of care that requires a real person- and relationship- centred approach, a kind of care that cannot be delivered and supported in isolation without the support of a multi-disciplinary team.

It’s an all-too frequently spoken truth, that the highly skilled care that’s provided 365 days a year in care homes across the country goes unrecognised and undervalued. COVID-19 briefly shone a light on the disconnect between the health service and care homes and that chronic lack of value we afford care homes and the people that live and work in them – with tragic consequences.

Post-COVID there’s an even greater need to value care homes and the people in them, acknowledging that they don’t have an onsite doctor or pharmacist, the technology or equipment that most healthcare organisations rely on. And all the while they are caring for people with complex physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs.

All the research tells us that the care home population will only continue to grow and the needs of the people living in care homes will continue to become more complex – care homes are the hospices of the future. This highlights the increasing need for integration, to make care homes a fully embedded part of the health system. No longer can it be some kind of nice to have bolt on that we visit occasionally.

On 14 March, we plan not only to celebrate care homes at St Christopher’s CARE, but in a half-day conference, also share inspiring examples of collaboration between care homes in South East London and us as a hospice.

We hosted an event last summer where invited care homes came to share some of their successes and it really stuck with me when one care home manager said that it was through the work we’d done together that she and her team felt empowered to deliver quality care and, perhaps more importantly, felt valued for doing it.

I like to think that over many years we’ve developed a suite of learning and support for our local care homes – designed to give them that confidence and sense of value. Thousands of managers, nurses and allied health professionals have accessed learning, whether that’s through the HELP for Care Homes programme we run jointly with Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice, or the individual courses like Principles and Practice of Palliative and End of Life Care, or our monthly ECHO sessions which we have recently extended to Learning Disabilities and Mental Health homes. St Christopher’s has always fostered and maintained close relationships with care homes.

But this offer can’t afford to be static. We have to and we are constantly reviewing it to ensure that what we provide is what is needed.

The event, Care Homes: A Major Investment Opportunity, will, as well as a celebration, provide an opportunity to describe the full education offer here at St Christopher’s CARE, bringing people up to date with the full range of new courses and programmes as well as the longstanding favourites.

You’ll hear from five homes about their successful collaborative working, from a former St Christopher’s employee, Nuno Santos Lopes who is now Director of Care at a large care home, Nightingale Hammerson, about the shared skills of the two organisations and the transferable skills and from our own Nurse Consultant, Helen King, about the crucial place care homes play in the wider health and social care system. Arrive in time for lunch and you’ll also be able to access two skills workshops.

I’d encourage anyone working in or with care homes in south London looking for that sense of empowerment and feeling of being valued and to hear how, when those two things seem beyond reach, what we here at St Christopher’s CARE can offer to support you. Book your place now.

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