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A network for care homes: Tackling challenges together to improve care

23 July 2021 | Dr Sarah Armstrong, GP and UCLPartners Education Fellow
UCLPartners Patient Safety Collaborative has launched a care homes network that aims to reduce deterioration-associated harm by improving the identification and response to deterioration, as well as making medicines’ administration safer.

In 2020, the UCLPartners Patient Safety Collaborative was commissioned by NHS England and Improvement to set up a care homes network, in order to reduce deterioration-associated harm by improving the identification and response to deterioration, as well as making medicines’ administration safer.

This was no small task. Our geography spans north east and north central London, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex, and encompasses a total of 976 care homes. We were suitably daunted.

But after three months of extensive scoping conversations, we had a good idea of networks that were already in existence, and where we could add benefit without duplication. We engaged key individuals from across both ICSs to steer the network. They were tasked with translating themes discussed into webinars, identifying priorities for discussions and agreeing terms of reference. Engaging these individuals enabled us to devolve some decision-making, whilst allowing the numbers to remain manageable.

The first network event came around quickly. There was broad representation – nurses, carers, care home managers, GPs, CCG leads, pharmacists and service managers from north east and north central London were all present. By communicating our key aims – such as taking a systems approach to safety within care homes – we looked to convince the attendees of the benefits of having such a network. Namely, the network can be used to share learning, particularly around implementing the deterioration-recognition toolkit and using advance care planning.

We are still in the process of compiling formal feedback on the event, but most people stayed on until the end of the call and no-one heckled us, so these are promising signs!

We were able to use this network event to harness information on what is concerning care homes at present (staffing, care pathways/plans, medicines safety, culture/ safeguarding and resident and staff wellbeing and mental health). We also captured information on what is going well (the amount of support out there for care homes at the moment, enthusiasm of staff to engage with improvement work, activities returning post-COVID, communication). Over the coming months, we aim to facilitate a systems approach to tackling some of the challenges raised.

We hope that the care homes network will be both sustainable and useful, providing a safe, supportive environment for learning across the care home sector, so that all care home residents benefit from excellent care.

Our next event focussing on medicines safety in care homes will be on 16 September. Keep an eye on our events pages to sign up or contact for more details.