Three years ago we launched a new programme to link care homes in each of the south east London boroughs we serve in a community of learning to help every care home resident receive quality end of life care.
Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO), originally developed in New Mexico, started here as a pilot with four homes in Bromley and now more than 4,000 attendees from over 130 homes in all seven boroughs have benefited from the unique mix of expert clinical knowledge and practical problem-solving.
Care homes from Bromley, Croydon, Lewisham, Lambeth and Southwark as well as Greenwich & Bexley have participated in more than 100 ECHO sessions.
These sessions have seen clinical experts from St Christopher’s come together online every month with care home staff to learn through discussions about real cases. Unlike curriculum-based learning programmes, the care home participants get to choose the agenda topics and case studies. And, being wholly virtual, it’s a low cost, high impact model for everyone.
ECHO Co-ordinator, Frances Conway, says: “It’s great that homes have a safe forum to network with one another on a regular basis as well as the opportunity to share practical ideas. It’s so rewarding to see homes making notes during a session on suggestions from the presenter or their colleagues, on ideas they want to try out.”
The ECHO sessions have really come into their own during the Covid-19 pandemic, providing staff with accessible, practical learning as well as the opportunity to share serious challenges with their peers and overcome the overwhelming sense of isolation felt by many care home professionals.
The ECHO sessions have been amazing, especially during Covid when they’ve been a fantastic support for the home. The fact that they don’t use complex terminology means anyone can attend.
Gemma Weldon, Manager of Park Avenue Care Home in Bromley, said: “The ECHO sessions have been amazing, especially during Covid when they’ve been a fantastic support for the home. The fact that they don’t use complex terminology means anyone can attend. I’ve always got an army of my staff behind me, including the housekeepers.
“It can be so hard as a manager keeping your whole team updated and involved. ECHO has really helped me to do that.”
While Gemma highlights the sessions on PPE and care in the last days of life as providing her team with crucial knowledge, skills and confidence, she equally appreciates the practical, problem solving approach of ECHO and the sense of ‘all being in it together’.
“I love the case studies because almost always, especially during Covid, you hear from someone else who has experienced something that you’ve been through.
“It’s so easy to feel alone and not realise that other homes are experiencing the same thing. Sometimes after the sessions we’ll gather as a team and go and reflect on our experience of a similar situation. That’s where ECHO is so brilliant, because it’s not just a professional telling you something they know about, it’s also really practical.”
And that is precisely the goal of ECHO, to provide that ideal mix of expert knowledge from St Christopher’s clinicians and practical implementation and experience from care homes, so that staff can provide personalised, skilled and effective end of life care for all their residents.
ECHO is so brilliant, because it’s not just a professional telling you something they know about, it’s also really practical
The range and diversity of the issues covered demonstrates the ECHO ethos that homes drive the learning agenda. Recognising pain with dementia, working with London Ambulance Service, avoiding hospital admissions and swallowing difficulties and choking, are four very diverse topics, all covered in this practical, problem solving format.
Despite having steered her 44-bed home to a ‘good’ rating at the end of 2019, Gemma believes ECHO has prepared her perfectly for the next CQC inspection.
“I know that the next time CQC come we’ll have to demonstrate what we did during Covid and I’ll be able to evidence the support we’ve had and that we have been able to cascade the information and do the lessons learned. I really don’t think we’d be in a position to do that without ECHO.”
ECHO is an essential element of our HELP for Care Homes programme. You can find out more here.