The National Care Forum held its 12th Managers Conference on 9 and 10 November 2015. The closing address was given by John Burton (author of the recent publication 'Leading Good Care') who made an impassioned argument for liberating managers, as well as care settings, from the constraints of routines, procedures and systems. This picked up on something of a theme during the conference as John Kennedy (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) noted in his address the prevalence of ‘process-centred rather than person-centred’ ways of working that had been raised by practitioners in response to his care home inquiry.
I have always thought of policies and procedures as the necessary scaffolding to ensure consistent good care practices. Ideally they are a framework within which relationships between care workers and people receiving support can develop. Relationships are obviously the key – the framework ought to be invisible. An overriding message from the quality initiatives that NCF has been instrumental in promoting, including My Home Life and the Eden Alternative UK, has been the primary importance of relationship-centred working. Both of these culture-change learning programmes have engaged and inspired our members and undoubtedly contributed to efforts to improve care services. And both are strongly underpinned by the value of relationships in care settings. Relationships between people receiving care and support, staff, relatives, commissioners and many others – all are important.
Opening the Managers Conference, Andrea Sutcliffe, Adult Social Care Chief Inspector at the Care Quality Commission, drew on the learning from CQC's quality rating assessments and the recently published ‘State of Care’ report to observe that a registered manager consistently in post has a crucial influence on quality. Furthermore she emphasised the importance of a culture of openness and staff engagement alongside a willingness to collaborate as factors in demonstrating a service is well-led. In her speech she also highlighted the learning from analysis of services rated as ‘requiring improvement’. It is no surprise that this reveals the difficulties associated with the absence of consistent effective leadership and management.
It was greatly encouraging that every keynote speaker reminded managers that they matter ... a lot! The NCF Managers Conference is an annual opportunity to celebrate managers as ‘activists’ for quality care and I am proud of the fact that NCF has consistently championed the importance of the managers role with an annual national conference. Registered Managers are the 'doers' who carry the major responsibilities for leading the changes required as part of the continuous improvement journey. In my view it is vital that we acknowledge the valuable contribution that managers make and that we do more to enable the public to have a better understanding of the importance of what they do, day-in and day-out, with little status or proper recognition.
Des Kelly OBE