Shake-up leads to improved home care in Falkirk

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A shake-up of shift patterns, retraining staff and communicating better with care workers, service users and families have all helped to make significant improvements in Falkirk’s home care service, councillors were told.

The changes were urgently made after an inspection by the Care Inspectorate last May found the service to be ‘weak’ in some areas, with little continuity of care and a worrying number of falls among service users.

Members of Falkirk Council’s external scrutiny committee heard the latest inspection, in March,  had seen a jump of two gradings, from ‘weak’ to ‘good’.

Head of adult social work services, Joe McElholm, said the issue of a lack of continuity of care was something they had been aware of and were already been working on before the inspection confirmed how severe the problem was.

“We knew it was an area we had to improve on before the inspection and we  are pleased to have the assurance and confirmation that they have seen a significant improvement,” he told councillors.

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The change in shift patterns, involving around 450 members of staff, was introduced with the cooperation of trade unions and a only small number of people have still to be accommodated.

Other major changes included merging two different job roles – traditional home help and personal carer – into one job, extended personal carer, which enhanced people’s skills and gave them more flexibility.

Patricia Cassidy, the head of Health and Social Services, told the meeting that they had listened to their own staff to make improvements.

She said: “The work done before the report involved substantial staff engagement. We listened to them and provided people with cars and smartphones so they could get live information as they are going to clients.

“We have completed a follow-up inspection and found an improvement in morale and found that people are enjoying being able to work consistently with a small number of clients.”

Mr McElholm told councillors that sickness absence remains a problem they were working to address.

He said: “I have it confirmed that it is unusual for a service to move up two grading points and the fact it has moved is based on their recognition of the very significant commitment of people working in the service to achieve this result.

“We want the service to be excellent – not just good. And we want to be moving up again at its next inspection.”

Councillor David Aitchison said he had noticed “a great improvement” in the service but questioned what the service was doing to make improvements at weekends which “always tend to be a problem area”.

Mr McElholm said this was a challenging area and one that would be looked at, especially improving management cover at those times.