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.

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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