CQC annual report recognises importance of strong leadership

The social and health care sector has come under much pressure in 2015. Of course that should come as no surprise to anyone working in the care sector. The pressure to respond effectively to changing care needs and financial restrictions has seen public services struggling to keep their heads above water – deliver more with less, being the mantra dictating service delivery.

However, the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) recent State of Care reportgives ground for a new sense of optimism as we head closer towards 2016, with the emphasis being on the need for strong and effective leadership to raise standards and generate a healthier return on their investment – irrespective of whether that investment continues to be cut or not.

The quest to be the best depends on good leaders

The CQC found that 94% of the services which they rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ were also good or outstanding for their leadership. Conversely, 84% of those services which it considered to be ‘inadequate’ were equally inadequately led.

The report stated: “In all sectors good leadership prioritises person-centred care and engagement with staff and people who use services in everything it does…where leadership is strong, then safe, effective, caring and responsive care tends to follow.”

Leaders who engage with staff at all levels, the CQC found, convey a strong and positive organisational culture that learns when things go wrong and where services are working well will create a greater sense of “shared ownership of quality and safety”.

Securing safe staffing levels

Staffing, says the report, is about much more than just having the right numbers. It stated that “Having the right number and mix of staff, with the right skills, at all times is integral to providing safe, high-quality care.”

The CQC found that the vacancy rate within adult social care was found to be double the national average, standing at 5%. Turnover was also found to be high at 25% compared to the UK industry average of 15%. However, for those services rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, well-planned rotas and robust recruitment procedures were found to be in place, to facilitate sufficient safe staffing levels and high-quality care 24 hours a day, with less reliance on external agency staff.

Skills shortages continue

The lack of suitably skilled and experienced staff continues to be a problem for the sector, falling below what each service says it needs to effectively manage current demand – a situation exacerbated during the night and at weekends.

Having the right mix of social care professionals that are trained in specific areas has a significant effect on service delivery. Indeed, the CQC found that those services ranked as performing ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ tended to have leadership teams in direct contact across all levels of the organisation.

This resulted in a greater uptake in mandatory training and increased performance management as staff felt supported and engaged and had a stronger willingness to improve their skills. As one inspector out it, “Leadership is the main steer, if there is a good manager in place who knows the service, is passionate about the service, then if they get that right, the rest of it’s going to be right. The vision goes throughout service.”