Care homes: How Bupa trains staff

If a care home chef chances upon a resident lying on the lounge floor does he panic, look for help or confidently take control? Most would seek help as they may lack the skills to deal with such an incident. However, at Bupa Care Homes the third option is the only one.

For the organisation has developed a programme, Personal Best, to help its staff understand the needs of residents and deliver a more personalised service.

Now the initiative – which has been rolled out to the group’s 295 homes – has picked up the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) annual People Management Award, beating off challenges from the likes of Tesco and Unilever.

Dean Cowley, Bupa’s customer services director, says it is rare for healthcare organisations to receive such recognition from the CIPD. He says the Personal Best scheme was a success from the outset as it built on the existing commitment of the group’s staff. “Their immediate reaction was not why are we doing this but how can we do it,” he says.

For the programme to reach its intended audience of 26,000 Bupa staff, a series of launch events was held for care home managers who then passed on the information to their own teams.

Cowley explains how training sessions focused on employees’ own experiences of good and bad customer service.

“It’s good if it’s an individual service,” he says. “If they know you and have worked out what is important to you. Good service equals personal service.”

Staff were then asked to consider who their “customers” actually were. “If you work in a kitchen, you might not work directly with residents but you would still work with care staff. So you would still have your own customers,” says Cowley.

Having recognised their customer base, all members of staff – from receptionists to chefs – were given the chance to experience life as a resident in their own workplace.

Staff were pushed around in wheelchairs some were blindfolded and fed by other members of staff or hoisted by colleagues. Cowley recalls one male manager who volunteered to let a colleague shave his face.

He says the “customers’ eyes” exercise proved valuable and revealing as staff were able to translate their own experiences into day-to-day practices with residents.

“They realised some things had to be done a bit slower or that you have to explain what you are seeing when you take someone outside who is blind and in a wheelchair,” says Cowley.

Carol Purdy, manager at St George’s Nursing Home in Cobham, Surrey, says she wore glasses designed to mimic the effects of someone who had a visual impairment. She was also fed by another member of staff.

“I wore a protector while being fed but we no longer use them after that exercise. They look more like bibs so we just use bigger napkins instead,” she says.

Putting herself in a resident’s shoes provided a deeper insight into the needs of individuals under her care, all of whom have dementia or psychiatric disorders.

“There are certain issues you think you see from a resident’s point of view,” she says. “But you have no control sitting in a wheelchair. If you can’t see, it feels like you are going at 100mph.”

One of Purdy’s staff has subsequently developed their own wheelchair training package for staff based on feedback from the exercise.

Both Cowley and Purdy say they have countered claims from employees who felt they were already working to their own “personal best” before the initiative was introduced.

“If you consider a personal best in athletics, you always want to run faster and beat your previous time. Until every single home is 100% excellent, everybody needs to continue to improve,” says Cowley.

For Purdy and her staff, the programme is a permanent part of the home’s culture. Individual personal best plans are regularly agreed and updated to keep the initiative fresh. Staff are set targets which reflect their own interests and abilities and efforts are recognised through a rewards scheme.

Darlene Rennie, whose husband, David, has been a resident at St George’s since last summer, is keen to spread the news about the home’s good practice. She says this type of training given to all of the care home’s staff ensures her husband receives excellent care delivered by a knowledgeable team.

All staff can now tackle a multitude of problems with first-hand experience, she says. “If the chef was walking through the lounge and someone had fallen over, he would instantly know what to do.”

What works

● Involve all members of staff in your training programme not just care workers.
● Introduce training to new staff as part of their induction.
● Share ideas and methods of good practice with other care homes.
● Assess the individual strengths and interests of your staff.
● Set personal plans for each staff member with achievable targets.
● Recognise their success through reward schemes.

This article appeared in the 21 June issue under the headline “Look at it this way”


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