How care home staff can gain the end-of-life care skills they need

As a survey shows familes rate end-of-life care in hospices as superior to that in care homes, Paul Clarke of Skills for Care explains how staff can access suitable training to close this gap.

Picture credit: Voisin/Phanie/Rex Features

The first national survey of bereaved people for the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that care homes provide better end-of-life care than hospitals, but hospices still came out best. Nearly half the people surveyed said end-of-life care in care homes was excellent. Encouraging, but there is still much room for improvement, not least in training.

So Skills for Care has created a partnership with NHS Yorkshire and Humber to deliver a programme of training and support to improve end-of-life care in 800 care homes across the region.

Free training for managers

Care home managers and end-of-life care champions across the region can access free training, based on national occupational standards, designed to:

• Increase the number of individuals who have advance care plans in place;
• Increase the number of individuals who die in their place of preference;
• Increase the number of individuals who are allocated a key worker as they approach the end of their lives;
• Increase the number of individuals who are entered onto an end-of-life care pathway.

Currently over 150 managers and 150 champions have completed the training, which is built on one of the mandatory units from the new level 5 certificate in leading and managing services to support end-of-life and significant life events (see below), allowing learners to move on to gain this certificate.

Good practice guide for care homes

The development programme is supported by a guide, Achieving success in end-of-life care, to help care homes achieve the government’s end-of-life care quality markers and Care Quality Commission essential standards, as they apply to this area.

Managers and champions from the region can also join an end-of-life care network in their local authority area – sharing best practice, learning from each other, and overcoming challenges to improving practice. This vital knowledge sharing is supported by end-of-life care specialists, including community matrons and end-of-life care facilitators, Skills for Care area officers and local authority workforce leads.

To support the wider care home team, online end-of-life care training is available to access via the e-learning for healthcare website. Work has been undertaken with the Yorkshire Cancer Network in selecting relevant and engaging taster modules – including in advanced care planning, assessment, communication skills and symptom management – for different workplace settings and different staff groups.

End-of-life care qualifications

The work in Yorkshire and the Humber builds on the launch of new qualifications for health and social care staff in England in end-of-life care, developed by Skills for Care and Skills for Health in conjunction with employers including Marie Curie Cancer Care and Barchester Healthcare. These are:

Level 2 award awareness of end-of-life care – a single unit award designed to provide a basic understanding of end-of-life care

Level 3 award awareness of end-of-life care – made up of three mandatory units to develop understanding of how to support people and their families in end-of-life situations, in particular during the last days of life

Level 3 certificate in working in end-of-life care – to help staff further develop their understanding of end-of-life care, especially around advance care planning, communication skills, symptom and pain management and supporting individuals with loss and grief before death;

Level 5 certificate in leading and managing services to support end-of-life and significant life events – a qualification to support managers to demonstrate how they can lead and manage end-of-life care services that promote positive experiences for individuals and their families.

All qualifications are based on the common core competences and principles for end-of-life care, published in 2009 as part of the government’s end-of-life care strategy.

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