Can we really improve care while support staff are treated so poorly?

Do we really believe that poor, unfair treatment of care support workers will give us the standard of care we demand? Society should put its money where its indignation is, says John Kennedy.

Today has seen the publication of a new report into the training and supervision of healthcare assistants in the NHS and social care.

Whilst the report highlights some alarmingly bad practice and poor support for these workers it also talks of providers with some excellent practice.

In amongst the usual recommendations about more training and ‘tougher’ management, there are some glimpses of a more fundamental truth we would be wise to reflect upon.

Cavendish said: "Patient safety in the NHS and social care depends on recognising the contribution of support workers, valuing and training them as part of a team.

"For people to get the best care, there must be less complexity and duplication and a greater focus on ensuring that support staff are treated with the seriousness they deserve – for some of them are the most caring of all."

Are we seeing a light at the end of the tunnel?

Is it now timely to really be honest and recognise that you can’t train or bully people into being kind, compassionate and caring. Kindness and compassion come from people who are respected, treated well and valued. For training and supervision to be effective more fundamental issues need to be addressed.

Increasingly we are expecting more and more from healthcare workers as our ageing society presents increasingly complex needs combined with ever-growing expectations.

Care and support staff in social care are at the lowest-paid, worst-respected and least-valued end of the UK labour market. We expect these workers to carry out exquisitely personal care for our frailest citizens and to do it with kindness, skill, empathy and respect. And yet we value them less than a checkout operator at the local supermarket (no disrespect to checkout operators)?

Is this the best way to achieve the standard of care we demand? Is it time for society to put its money where its collective indignation is? Do we really believe that any improvement can be made whilst support workers are treated so poorly and unfairly in respect of the task we have designed for them?

I began a personal inquiry into care homes a few weeks ago. Although it’s early days, this issue is a clear, major theme. Please let me have your thoughts too by commenting on this blog post.