How can healthcare providers balance quality and continuity of care with flexible working?

Shehzad Jivraj, Head of Operations at Clearstone Care, discusses how healthcare providers can balance the needs of staff with maintaining care standards

Recruiting and retaining high-quality RGNs and care assistants is without a doubt the biggest issue facing care and nursing home managers up and down the country today. Having sufficient numbers of staff in place with the right skills for each and every shift is fundamental to providing quality care and support which is consistent. However, like many care providers nationwide, we’re seeing a decline in the number of permanent nurses and care assistants in the sector.

The most recent Skills for Care report on the state of the adult social care sector and its workforce paints a damning picture. It estimates that around 300,000 social care employees leave their jobs each year – that’s a turnover rate of 30.7 per cent. With vacant shifts to fill, care and nursing home managers have to turn to recruitment agencies and temporary nurses and care assistants in order to meet their staffing needs.

Amongst the 1.47 million people working in adult social care in England, there is also a clear desire to work more flexibly. A permanent role simply isn’t a good fit for everyone as nurses and carers try to balance their roles with their personal commitments and responsibilities. But how do care home managers maintain the delivery of quality care in a turbulent employment market?

 

Creating transparent relationships that last

With nurses and carers keen to gain the same benefits as gig economy workers, requests for flexible working are on the rise. As social care faces a lack of funding and staff shortages, care and nursing home managers need to call time on the taboo around temporary staff and accept that they are not only here to stay, but can be part of the solution to the staffing crisis. Embracing the use of temporary nurses and carers is an important step in meeting the needs of the home, staff and most importantly the residents.

Most managers have an experienced group of ‘core’ permanent staff working in their setting. Skills for Care estimates that on average each of these workers will have 8.2 years of experience in the sector. Maintaining a core group of nurses and carers is a really key aspect to ensuring the continuity of care and the smooth running of everyday practices. Especially when delivering specialised services for those with dementia and ongoing mental health conditions.

However, the use of temporary staff isn’t set to slow down, especially as the demand for social care increases. Creating good relationships with a handful of different recruitment agencies, as well as forging relationships with individual nurses and carers can help to balance that all-important continuity of care with the use of temporary staff. As a care home operator, we tend to try and employ temporary nurses and carers who have worked in at least one of our three homes before. Not only does this help the nurse to familiarise themselves with the residents, but it also supports the delivery of care and streamlines the process.

 

Attracting and retaining quality temporary staff

With a need to protect continuity of care, nursing and care home managers are increasingly looking to grow their pool of regular temporary staff. But aside from building good relationships with agencies, how can managers go about forging these long-term relationships?

It’s important for care home managers to use all the tools and resources at their disposal. There has been a rise in the number of online platforms which allow managers to recruit temporary nurses and carers – affording even greater control over a home’s staffing needs. As part of our resourcing solutions, we’ve adopted Florence, as it allows care providers to post vacant shifts and select applicants from a database of pre-vetted RGNs. As the platform is available on desktop or mobile, it’s allowed us to easily fill shifts regardless of time zones or location.

Much like having a group of regular temporary staff employed through an agency, Florence allows care home managers to add nurses to a list of ‘favourites’. This goes a long way in helping achieve a sense of staffing continuity and building direct relationships. The calibre of the nurses recruited through the platform is often higher than those employed from an agency. Partly this is because of the accountability offered by the platform, as the nurses know they will be rated and reviewed by the nursing home after their shift. This level of transparency gives both care operators and nurses the opportunity to provide honest feedback for their respective profiles. Not only does this drive quality but it also helps everyone involved identify potentially successful working relationships.

Whether care and nursing home managers are hiring temporary staff through recruitment agencies or online, it’s important that they are made to feel part of a team. There needs to be strong emphasis on the fact that the work of social care is transformational rather than transactional, i.e. changing people’s lives for the better rather than going in and preparing them a meal. Although it isn’t possible to always wait until the ‘right’ candidate has applied for a shift, the long-term forging of direct relationships with temporary staff is vital in supporting core permanent workers – and as a care provider I believe part of the solution to the challenges we face in social care today.