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Gillian Keegan | Care Home Providers Guidance

Care minister, Gillian Keegan, outlines the importance of strong leadership in health and care

Leadership is one of the most influential factors in shaping organisational culture. Strong leadership helps get the best out of those you manage, and in turn means patients and service users get the best possible care.

This week Sir Gordon Messenger and Dame Linda Pollard published their landmark independent review of leadership in health and social care. Speaking to thousands of passionate frontline staff and leaders across these sectors, they found inspiring examples of strong leadership. However, the report found a lack of consistency in leadership standards and in training and development. 

Worryingly, it also found evidence of poor behaviours and attitudes such as discrimination, bullying and blame cultures in certain parts of the system and a lack of equal opportunity to access training and progression.

Having reviewed the findings and recommendations, the government is committed to making changes and has accepted them in full. The health and social care workforce work incredibly hard and this has never been more evident than in the last two years. As we learn to live with Covid and turn our focus towards tackling the backlog, it is important that we strengthen the social care system and address the health disparities exposed by the pandemic, and outstanding leadership is vital in driving these priorities forward.

The review made seven recommendations to improve the skills of leaders and put the right incentives in place to achieve this. The £500million investment in the adult social care workforce from the Health and Care Levy is designed to address exactly this, to develop current leaders whilst also untapping the leadership potential in care workers more broadly. This includes developing a knowledge and skills framework to outline the key skills needed for roles, setting out clear pathways for development and progression, and providing hundreds of thousands of funded training places over the next three years, so that care workers at all levels can meet their individual career goals.

The £500million will also fund Care Certificates, which equips health and social care workers with key skills and knowledge to deliver safe and high-quality care. But we know this is not always delivered in a consistent way, with care workers often repeating training when they move roles.

This is why we’re creating a new training delivery model, to ensure Care Certificate training is of the highest quality and that care workers can carry this with them throughout their careers. And, in the longer-term, we are exploring how to make it a requirement for all care workers to have reached this baseline standard to achieve the consistency in management standards the review recommends.

What is more, it is crucial for the Health and Social Care Secretary and me that the health and care sector is an inclusive and welcoming environment for people from all backgrounds, free from bullying, discrimination and harassment. Wellbeing is a key tenet of the £500million workforce investment, which is why we’re expanding the roll-out of the Social Care Workforce Race Equality Standard – developed with Skills for Care. This is to ensure local authorities create plans to ensure staff from ethnic minority backgrounds are treated equally, feel included and valued and have access to culturally appropriate support.

Some may be asking whether the review looks at social care comprehensively, with some of the recommendations focussing on the NHS specifically. It is a fair question. Given the different structures and levers exist within health and social care the review had to focus on areas where there would be most impact as. This does not mean however, that lessons cannot be applied to the social care sector and vice versa, with the report noting the NHS can learn best practice in social care, such as principal social worker and registered manager standards. And with Integrated Care Systems coming into force from July, this provides an opportune moment to look at how NHS and social care leaders can work together to provide efficient and integrated care for the people they serve.  

Driving forward these standards and replicating the best examples of leadership is a collective endeavour, and I look forward to working with social care leaders across England to implement these recommendations and transform social care leadership.

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