Dr. Raja shares his passion and knowledge with CHJ

What do you enjoy the most about working in care home industry?

For me, working in the care industry is a passion and a vocation giving me an opportunity to make a positive difference to the lives of vulnerable people every day whilst affording me a tremendous amount of satisfaction and achievement. Of course, it is incredibly challenging but because of the diversity and uniqueness of every person we support and the situations faced, no one day is the same and its great to be able to apply my passion and creativity with a team equally as dedicated and driven, to achieve positive outcomes.
What is the key issue facing the care home industry in this country?

Senior couple at home with many bills

Clearly the main headline grabber is rightly the underfunding of the sector whilst costs escalate. This takes providing excellent services to the breaking point where staff aren’t paid meaningfully and services cannot be further invested in to improve. To make matters worse, the ever changing and ever increasing burdens of bureaucracy and red tape are stifling at best and confusing and demotivating at worst.

There are examples of good quality services that have closed and are facing distress. Staff morale and improvements within others are problematic and the media’s negative portrayal of the sector is disheartening. The threats and challenges from all sides diminish further the capacity and resilience to continue the fight to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in society. Everybody in the sector is affected from front line care staff through management to owners and directors. In fact the sector deserves credit more than ever for its compassion, warmth and care when it feels very exploitative since so much is built upon the extra mile….. above and beyond that is given by those, most often women, that enter the profession because of a heartfelt commitment to caring.

In a world where austerity rules supreme where government support is reducing and health costs are rising, how challenging has it been for the care home industry? What are some steps you home have taken to manage through the current climate of economic uncertainty?


We have focussed our efforts even more on being closer to service users and front line staff and to empower and support them to assist in maintaining excellent relationships and communication which helps to improve the service experienced by all. We have applied technology to take the burden of many aspects that previously distracted from the time and costs of managing and administering the service including introduction of computer systems, iPads and mobile phones for remote staff which link in with planning and finance.

We have streamlined and restructured our management and moved more people from the office out into the places where people receive care and support and have adopted management functions that break away from service lines but are more responsive in terms of the support people and the organisation needs.

What are some of the areas that the care home industry can improve?

Individual homes and organisations have often been isolated and very bunkered in their outlook and it is now more important than ever for greater unity in the sector. From keeping in touch with local providers, sharing knowledge and resources through to formal membership of local and national trade associations, will help keep knowledge up to date with best and innovative practice whilst possibly opening up opportunities for growth and development and reduction of costs and improving quality as a result.

We as a sector need to celebrate success better. So much happens day in day out within our services we provide yet we too are modest and humble to the point that the only stories that are heard are the bad ones. We should shout from the rooftops about our achievements and success and make sure the local community is engaged and aware of what we do. So many of us hold and take part in Open days, craft fairs, are involved with local churches, colleges and other community groups and activities for example but how many of these feature in news articles let alone interviews?

A strong unified voice representing providers in the sector, sending clear messages to stakeholders including the public as well as commissioners and the government is needed now more than ever and Care England will undoubtedly build on the success of the National Care Association and the English Community Care Association following merger on the 1st january 2014 and will help shape the sector in a way that works for service users and service providers.

 

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Dr. Asif Raja bio:

A lifelong commitment to health and social care has seen Dr Raja apply himself to make a positive difference as a founder and Managing Director of SummerCare. He has championed improvements in the quality of services and is a Director of the National Care Association, a Board Member of the Care England Transition Board, trustee of Shields people parliament, Board Member of the National Leadership Forum and a member of the steering group of the Driving up Quality Alliance.

care-home-great british care awardsHe was recognised as the Best Employer in the country by The Great British Care Awards in 2013 as well as for excellence in customer service in the 2013 Business Awards as well as for his contribution to the community in the 2012 Business Awards.  A prominent national contribution has seen him recognised as one of the top 30 Social Care Leaders in the country as well as a Care Personality in the National Care Awards 2012.

Whiff-whaff sweeps care homes

Active senior woman-Whiff-whaff sweeps care homesFollowing the film Ping Pong, a documentary about eight over-80 world table tennis champions at the over 80′s World Table Tennis Championships in Inner Mongolia; over 1,200 care homes in the UK have received the ping pong pack and their residents started taking up the sport.

In the film, emotions are running high and the champions show great tenacity and a determination to win, despite some of them battling against the physical ailments that tend to come with old age. Centenarian, Dorothy DeLow, from Australia, who is featured in the film, says ‘Table tennis is my life’ and for these competitors it really is. She reveals how she lost her husband and her daughter and says ‘I was playing table tennis, and I think that saved me’. Dorothy, who is the oldest competitive player in the world, left the UK on a Sydney bound boat in 1911 when she was two – around the same time table tennis is thought to have been invented. She started playing in her 70s when both her husband and her daughter died in the same year.

care-home-pingpong-Whiff-whaff sweeps care homes

Some of the care homes have set up mini tournaments. Residents say the film inspires them and makes them want to get involved in table tennis. Table tennis is good for your mental state and your physical health. You have fun and it helps people to stay fit. We want to smash the stereotypes people have about older people. So far we have distributed the ping pong packs to over 1,200 care homes. The pack is for smaller care homes that don’t have the resources of the bigger ones. We are trying to focus on regions and areas that under-serviced and we have been working with local authorities to help us identify which care homes will most benefit from receiving the free packs.

Local Government Ombudsman warns councils on care home issues

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has warned local councils across the country that they hold responsibilities for the care homes they work with.

The news broke out following an LGO investigation into Merton Council where a contracted private care home in the area requested a resident to pay top-up fees which they had no right to demand for. Sutton Court Care Centre’s action brought attention to Merton Council from LGO. The warning came to light when the family of an elderly woman contacted the council about having to pay the difference between the allowance their relative was entitled to from the council and the amount charged by the care home.

care-home-house-Local Government Ombudsman warns councils on care home issues

The lady had been living at the home on a council-funded placement; private residents generally pay more for their care than the council’s standard rate. The family believed they had already been paying the women’s contribution, but the assessed financial contribution was not payable to the care home but to the council.

What is more, as the contract was between the council and care home and the women’s family. The care home was not entitled to any more funding than the council’s usual rate. Therefore, the ombudsman has also recommended that the council make all parties that it contracts to provide care on its behalf aware that they cannot charge extra fees for the same care directly to the service user or their family. Officers will also have to report back to the LGO within three months on their progress.

Breast cancer awareness needs to be improved amongst older women

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer (APPGBC) recently published a report aiming to tackle the problems and barriers preventing older women having the access they need, to the breast cancer services available in the NHS.

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MPs and senior managers from various care home groups stood by this report and assert: “It is deeply concerning that older breast cancer patients are being denied access to the full treatment and support options available purely as a result of their age. By learning from those at the heart of the issue we have gained a clear picture of these barriers and what must be done to eradicate them.”

 

One Step at a Time-Breast cancer awareness needs to be improved amongst older women

The report highlighted the special support that older breast cancer patients might require, such as transport from their own home to hospital or their caring commitments for other relatives during their treatment. The importance of making older women know how to spot the signs of breast cancer and have the earliest possible diagnosis was also emphasised. Older women have poorer survival rates due to the often late diagnosis of their breast cancer, with research showing that one in five women over 70 do not look touch or feel their own breasts regularly.

 

“For most women, getting older is the biggest risk factor for developing breast cancer so we must take action to ensure older breast cancer patients receive the same gold standard of care as younger women. We are calling on NHS England, Public Health England and Clinical Commissioning Groups to implement these recommendations as soon as possible to ensure older patients are treated as individuals, and not stereotyped by their age.” The report has also been supported by broadcaster Dame Jenni Murray, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006.