The Observer recently put the spotlight on the role of private equity firms in funding organisations that deliver health and social care services. This was in response to 50 care workers striking after their wages have been cut by up to 35% in Doncaster.
Writers for the paper questioned why workers, who provide vitally important care to vulnerable people, should be at the sharp end of a financier’s pencil? They asked whether this was a case of capitalism winning over the needs of the disabled and elderly.
For me, the bigger issues are the value we place on delivering care, whether that’s for people living with disabilities or older people, and why we continue to use the same broken models.
Care providers must work with local authorities and the regulators to deliver a different and better way of running services. This means deconstructing the model and recognising the most important thing is the relationship between customers and the staff.
Let’s start with re-examining staff roles and the way work is organised. In the current model any opportunity to show initiative has been taken from staff as they’ve been a given a task based list and form to complete, so their ability to work with people and spend time with them is moot. End the tick box approach to care and you enable staff to spend less time doing paper work and more time providing the support needed by the customers.
Look at other areas in the business where efficiencies can be made instead of taking money off the very people who engage with and support customers on a daily basis.
Re-prioritise people over bricks and mortar – buildings aren’t important. Stop developing over specified residential care homes and retirement properties to incarcerate older people under one roof, and question why you’re spending enormous amounts of money on buildings and furniture while still paying staff minimum wage. It’s depressing and understandably customers are questioning why they pay so much to live in these palaces when staff can’t even get paid a living wage and claims of abuse and neglect are rife?
Reduce the clumsy and costly back office infrastructure which has led to bureaucracy and inefficiency in service delivery, with frontline staff penalised in terms of quality of training and reward to balance the central overhead. This challenge has been compounded by finance people designing services to make spreadsheets look better. Organisations financed through hedge funds and private equity firms inevitably look for a quick return, which means focusing on costs to improve the bottom line to make the onward sale attractive rather than investment in the future.
At Evermore we won’t create a massive infrastructure and load on costs to fund central operations as everything will be focussed on the colleague and customer relationship. We’re investing in creating self-managed teams as they are the key decision-makers who understand the needs of individual customers and advocate for them. They’ll be paid annual salaries and receive comprehensive professional development, giving them the confidence they have the right skills, are well rewarded and trusted to do the job.
We will also work with local authorities and local NHS services to make sure we apply all budget allocation to an individual to enable us to deliver a new model where staff are valued properly and customers get the service they deserve.
Investing in people, not slashing their wages, is the future of a more sustainable health and social care system. And I actually think all of us who are passionate about this sector want this to happen – so it’s time to break the mould, change and take a few risks. The rewards will be well worth the effort.
Sara McKee FRSA
Evermore Founder & Director of Market Innovation
This blog was originally written for the Huffington Post and appeared here.