Following the development of the wellbeing offer for NHS staff affected by COVID-19 in April 2020, the NHSE & I regional team in the south east of England felt that there needed to be a similar resource for social care staff.
How it all began
One member of staff from the ‘ Getting It Right First Time’ team was redeployed to work with the NHSE & I Care Home and Community Services cell and given a fairly broad brief for what became a bespoke piece of work. This member of staff was joined by one of the LGA’s Senior Workforce Advisers who had knowledge and experience of wellbeing at work support. Together they began to shape the brief they had been given. Initially they created a log of all the relevant resources they could find and identified the staff group it would be relevant for eg managers, front line care staff etc. This is their story…
What worked well in the development of the resource
We had a lot of freedom to decide how to deliver on the brief and were able to divide up the work to allow us to work to our strengths: employer and employee support. It also helped that the NHS and local government had shared values and a common language. We found video meetings and the ability to work together on documents in real-time on screen while we talked was very useful. We “played to the whistle” – doing what we thought was right and were very outcomes- focussed, able to by-pass the ‘business as usual’ layers of bureaucracy around eg the use of logos. Some of that reduced bureaucracy was a silver lining of the pandemic where our organisations took a more ‘do what needs to be done’ approach. Also, by doing this work jointly, we significantly reduced the likelihood of duplicated effort.
Teamwork was another benefit of this work – having someone to share the development of the resources, bounce ideas off and be a buddy to in a very stressful time was helpful. Also invaluable was the professional relationship we forged: always delivering what was promised, meeting agreed deadlines, being mutually supportive with no ego getting in the way, and a friendship forged in the fire of the anxiety of the time and the work. We missed each other when the work was finished. We knew we could pick up the phone and ask each other’s advice and we worked together to find solutions to any problems that arose. We shared knowledge and learnt from each other. We think we were also very honest about our limitations or knowledge gaps.
- Neither of us had detailed knowledge about adult social care and added to that it was an unprecedented situation and we were not really sure what support people actually needed – a lot of this was our best guess at the time
- Timescales and the pace of work were quite punishing, though necessary
- The volume of material on wellbeing was a challenge – it took us a bit of time to understand what we could do to make this piece of work meaningful and a really helpful resource
- The politics of the issues facing adult social care staff at the time were highly sensitive and we were not able to explicitly refer to these (eg lack of PPE, staffing shortages, under-funding, lack of parity esteem with the NHS) even though they would definitely impact on the wellbeing of frontline staff in adult social care
- There were a lot of well-developed resources to support NHS staff wellbeing which would have been good for similar roles and situations in social care settings but we felt that the lack of equal investment in support for social care staff was too keenly felt for us to constantly refer to NHS resources
- Not being experts in adult social care or some of the complex issues facing adult social care staff eg death of colleagues, psychological trauma meant we tended to major on more universal sources of support and advice, and were just able to signpost to more specialist sources of expert advice – but at least we were gathering all of the information in one place for staff and managers to access
- Once the resource was published on the LGA website, it felt as if it went into something of a vacuum as there was no means for us to get feedback abouts its value or take-up (we couldn’t get data on web page hits for example) and we don’t know if it reached its intended audience
- It was a challenge getting to speak to the right people about their resources as everyone was under such pressure, and we also became aware that many people were doing similar types of work, albeit with slightly different remits, meaning there was a risk of duplicated effort.
- Partnering with private organisations such as IHASCO led to complications over the use of logos and securing sign-off from separate organisations with different governance processes was time-consuming
- This piece of work was very clearly situated in the ‘react’ stage of the pandemic but there hasn’t been the time or capacity to think about ‘what next’. We have an idea now of some of the issues and gaps which need further work such as domestic abuse, and we now have some additional resources to support people who may be experiencing domestic abuse and a better understanding of how lockdown has impacted on this, which needs to be woven into future iterations of the wellbeing guide. There is now more research on how the impact of working through the pandemic has affected social care staff, but it is still not clear what meaningful support we can offer to employers or individuals. We are contributing to Government working parties to encourage a national response on this
- One of the key issues we’ve been giving evidence to select committees on health and social care wellbeing about is burnout; we need to think about how we further support employers and staff experiencing this problem
- We’d like to see some learning/harnessing of the message about how amazing adult social care frontline staff have been, and how vital to our communities they are, incorporated into recruitment and retention campaigns
- We also need to think about how we avoid putting the staff back into the same situations if there is a second wave – it would not be good to have a repeat of the first phase of the pandemic and for us just to have to wheel out our resource again…
- It didn’t need a cast of thousands to co-produce this resource, but we could have benefited from involving a few more key organisations and social care experts
- Early discussions with key organisations such as Public Health England and Skills for Care will be beneficial to any project like this
- Recognise the value of sharing common work and outputs during challenging times
- The NHS and adult social care should look at shared communications during these difficult periods
Senior Adviser Workforce, LGA
Implementation Manager, South East Region Getting It Right First Time Team