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Care managers flag up unrealistic demands of inspectors during pandemic

There is a “moral obligation” to provide more psychological support to care home staff as they continue to live with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That is the conclusion of a research study in which staff from Scottish care provider Balhousie Care Group shared their experience of working during the pandemic and their coping mechanisms.

Care home managers who took part in the study told of the extra stress of supporting their teams in an ongoing crisis, while not revealing their own struggles.  

They also criticised inspectors for their “unreasonable and unrealistic” demands, and their frustration with the public and media focus on the NHS.

Care and nursing staff told researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands and Northumbria University, that they had prioritised work over family life and had turned to each other for support.  

The research team drew comparisons with wartime camaraderie.  Employers are recommended to create ‘safe spaces’ for care workers to reflect on their pandemic experiences. More widely, there needs to be a “cultural shift” to acknowledge care teams’  “unique and high-quality contribution”, and care home inspections that are supportive and “avoid a ‘tick box’ mentality.”

The qualitative mixed methods study took place over four months between January and May 2021. Academics surveyed 52 healthcare workers from Balhousie Care Group’s 26 care homes, conducting follow-up interviews with thirteen.

Lindsay Dingwall, a co-author of the study and clinical care quality manager at Balhousie Care Group, said: “As emotional and raw as this study was, it was hugely important … for the sake of our employees and residents, and in honour of everyone who has lost a life.”

A spokesman from Scottish Care said: “We have to learn the lessons of disproportionate and unnecessary scrutiny and inspection; of alleged oversight support which has made staff feel devalued and unskilled; of investigations in the name of assurance which has made staff feel culpable; of media commentary which has sought to find blame and scapegoat; and of external governmental intervention, clinical advice and infection, prevention and control (IPC) guidance which has made care at times so challenging.”


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