Happy Customers Tell It Like It Is

Halcyon Homecare is focused on what its customers want and need – whether they are paying the bills, or not. Some of our clients are self-funded, others have support that is underwritten by the Local Authority – but that really doesn’t matter either to us as a company, or to our wonderful team of carers.

But why would you believe us when we say that?
It’s so much more powerful when it comes from those who receive care.

We’ve put together a little selection of quotes, which were provided to the Care Quality Commission in our most recent inspection.

“very much a personal service that has inspired confidence.”

“very happy, my care worker is excellent”

“I am very glad that we chose Halcyon Home Care”

“they always turn up and call if going to be late”

“they always do what I want and help with the things I find difficult”

“they arrive on time and treat me with respect”

“the same care workers visit me”

Why do we get such overwhelming positive responses from our customers? Well, some of our carers in their own interviews with the inspectors summed it up beautifully:

“I let them do what they can for themselves, it’s all about what they want.”

“I cut sandwiches into triangles, not squares, and made the bed the way the client wanted – as that’s what they preferred.”


5 resolutions for Halcyon Home Care in 2014

The end of one year and start of another are frantically busy times in home care. Not only do many families ask us to keep a caring eye on relatives while they are away or distracted by the mountain of tasks that this time of year always entails, but the needs for provision of social care are continuous. As we settle back into some semblance of normality, we now have time to reflect on what we want, and what we intend, for 2014.

  1. This year we will prove that we are up for the Dementia Challenge launched last year. We have already appointed a Dementia Champion, and will be continually and carefully redesigning and promoting our dementia services. We will look to meet more than simply the basic care needs of those with dementia, but also look to support them holistically and improve their quality of living every day.
  2. We will be watching the progress of the Care Bill as it moves through the legislative process, and are resolved to be vocal – giving credit where credit is due, but not being afraid to challenge areas and aspects of debate which we feel are not hitting the spot.
  3. In a similar vein, we will be proactive in sharing the great stories and examples of care excellence which are the mark of our agency. It isn’t simply to market ourselves but is, much more importantly, to counter the poisonous impact of negative elderly care stories which the media love, but which do such a disservice to our wonderful carers and to other people like us who strive to be different. Shine a light on bad practice by all means – but don’t assume all carers are the same.
  4. Continue to partner positively and proactively with the Local Authority, as we work together to try to meet more of the growing needs for elderly care among the aging populations in Maidenhead, Windsor and Ascot. As a company we’ll be increasing the number of Halcyon-trained care staff and ensuring that they live and breathe our care philosophy of delivering quality care with respect, and continuity.
  5. Lastly, we plan on having fun – with both our team and our customers. A little lightness can go a long way to helping our clients deal with what can sometimes be a tough decision to bring in a helping hand — and to help our carers cope in what is a very demanding job. Plus – it keeps us sane in the office, as we juggle an ever increasing number of care hours!

We’re looking forward to a great 2014.
Happy New Year to all, from the Halcyon Home Care team.


Carers Choose Christmas Cheer & Crackers for Customers over precious free time

Christmassy Carers Cheerful after Cracker and Mince Pie Dash

Christmassy Carers Cheerful after Cracker and Mince Pie Dash

Free time is precious at Christmas, especially when things are busy. Many people just want to get away from work the instant they can to do the Christmas shopping – but instead, three Senior Carers at Halcyon Home Care decided to relax by delivering crackers and mince pies to many of their elderly customers.

“Winter is always a busy time for homecarers so we thought we’d have some fun by challenging ourselves to a Mince Pie and Christmas Cracker Dash to our elderly customers in Maidenhead, ” explained Maggie Wallen.

“We drew up a list of customers that didn’t mind us visiting and then set off after lunch to see how many we could visit before I started my evening calls,” added Zoe Rawlings.

“It was lovely to spend some time with them without having to follow the tasks in the care plan,” said Ann Smith, the third member of the team.

Each carer sent a photo of the visit to be turned into a memento for the customers. Hot off the camera in our image is Mr Manolo Macias of Maidenhead who happily agreed to be poster boy for the day, and Mrs Kee, who really appreciated her Christmas visit!

Halcyon Home Care is always proud of its amazing and dedicated team, but particularly so when it sees activities like this happen. “It’s easy to forget that the very best carers are people that enjoy the company of elderly people. For them, the rewards of the job are in working with the people, not simply putting in the hours. The relationships that grow between them and really interesting people that happen to be a little bit older are real, warm, and you can see them come to life at this time of year,” said Paul Dunn-Sims, General Manager at Halcyon.

Happy Christmas to you all: our wonderful care team!

Attending the UKHCA Conference

halcyon-homecare-footerThe UK Homecare Association hosted its recent conference,
“Homecare — Meeting the quality challenge, today and into the future​,” at the Oval on November 26th. In the light of Jeremy Hunt’s speech on the national shame of large numbers of lonely old people, the gathering was testimony to the private home care sector’s commitment, energy and experience to do something about it.

I was not alone in expressing exasperation at the way the majority of care for the elderly is commissioned on a time basis by Local Authorities and their continued defence of 15-minute flying visits. “He who pays the piper calls the tune” was the repeated refrain from business leaders present. A common view emerged that this particular tune is the direct causal link to a limit on better wages for good carers, poor quality job applicants, reduced investment in training and cheaper management practices that all contribute to a downward quality spiral.

I was delighted that I was not alone in my concern over the way the sector is portrayed in the media and the inevitable consequence that some people decide not to engage a professional care firm but to struggle on inadequately.

One of the key problems facing the sector is the high proportion of social care commissioned by Local Authorities. How they treat care provision has such an enormous effect on the cultural assumptions of care providers that this becomes the way of doing things for all customers. It struck me that any inertia in the room was from those providers “waiting” for something to change in Local Authority practices. But what many private providers know, from experience with self-funding customers, is that a customer has choice, and if we don’t provide the agreed outcomes they will go elsewhere.

We deliver person-centred, Outcome-Based Care. We have learned that when they are paying, customers can be very clear about what is important to them and what is required. We have learned that not addressing those requirements in our care delivery leads to failure. Unfortunately, many recipients of care commissioned by Local Authorities don’t appear to recognise any choice; they might make a complaint about shabby performance, but with the commissioning arrangements as they are, they mainly receive what they’re given … and are grateful for it!

So, what can we do? One step forward might be to stop using the derogatory term of Service User, and replace it with the fullest interpretation of the concept of “Customers,” that is, individuals with personal needs, choice and preferences. Of course, another step may be that people, like me, need to have the courage of our convictions and strike out with care products for self funders that truly address the care needs and outcomes, rather than just aping care packages structured on a commissioned-by-the hour basis … watch this space.




Outcome-Based Commissioning in RBWM?

Congratulations to the Strategic Commissioning team in RBWM for hosting a market dialogue event to discuss Outcome-Based Commissioning (OBC) for homecare services and (despite the cynics) there appeared to be a genuine interest in contributions from the providers’ market. Getting a room full of providers together and asking for their input to the challenges, implications and possible solutions should be applauded, not least for the recognition that it is in all our interests to find some form of solution to the challenge of growing adult homecare requirements and strapped social services budgets. None of us want to see the continuation of the 15-minute flying visits or the cacophony of negative comments about homecare. To be clear, we as providers want successful homecare services just as much as any pressure group currently complaining about the quality of care provided.

Not surprisingly, no clear solution emerged from the workshop but there was plenty of food for thought and the contributions to the discussions were high on practical, experienced insights. For me, learning the perspective of carers specialising in autism and learning difficulties on what is a “valuable” outcome with time scales measured in years were particularly provocative.

One particular point was well made: care providers do not need staff from local authorities to determine what is required in a care package and what the recipient of the care desires as an outcome. We already successfully define and agree care packages for all our private customers (the so-called “self-funders”) where the ultimate test for how successful we are is in the choice that a private customer has to stay with the provider or go elsewhere. We document these aspirations and our programme of work into individualised contracts of care and we deliver against them with our value reviewed every time we submit an invoice. In a pure OBC world the challenge for the local authority would be: how do they determine the value to be placed on a particular outcome and build it into their budgets? But I don’t think we’re there yet!

It is clear that there is no simple solution to the challenge facing local authority commissioners. It seems inevitable that dealing with that many local requirements (service users), the local authority staff will need to be more flexible, creative and collaborative with both providers and recipients of care to reach better solutions. But at least we’re no longer burying our head in the sand and waiting and hoping for Central Government to open the funding tap again.


CCTV and Elderly Care

Elderlylaptop250pxThe suggestion that the Care Quality Commission will investigate the risks and potential benefits of mystery shoppers and hidden cameras to monitor elderly care provision has become a major talking point. One social worker on Radio 5 Live commented that if a vigorous discussion into practices and standards in elderly care homes had been started simply by making the suggestion, then the CQC had done its job. That may be so, but there is another aspect of this suggestion that ought to be considered … and that is the use of technology to assist in supporting elderly care.

I believe that the potential for using technology to assist the elderly at home is huge.

For some time we have known that there are digital pill dispensers that will provide individualised prescribed medication to an alarm through the day; pressure mats, to indicate movement around a house or to detect falls, have been recommended for a number of years; pendant or wrist watch alarms provide an opportunity for an emergency response; and there is now talk of remote monitoring of blood pressure and heart rates over the internet. But these innovations are generally “preventive” or “medical responses” in nature and do not contribute towards enhancing the lives of the elderly or alleviating some of the reports of chronic loneliness.

I would like to see designers and developers applying their creative minds in this area of technological development. I am excited by products like the Care Messenger from i-Spy Digital that uses the television as a communication medium offering simple messaging into the home for care providers but also opening up the opportunity for elderly people to be involved in social media exchange with loved ones — all without having to learn new technology or leave their lounges!  Clearly, Smart TVs also offer the opportunity for Skype (or others) with the wonderful advantage of actually seeing who you’re talking to … an instant end to isolation! We welcome Jeremy Hunt’s support for more modern communications technologies in the NHS as a whole and the fact that GPs can start applying for funding to trial such use of technology.  However, we would always want to see technology employed mindfully, for example, elderly patients may be less receptive to Skype etc and not always find such transitions simple.

Of course, I see we need to manage any fears that this would lead to Big Brother care monitoring and strongly believe that technology can never replace the personal touch or indeed the training to complete professional personal care, but I can foresee a time where care workers will need to be capable of assisting in setting up modems, Skype, etc., as a part of a care plan that includes widespread technological applications .

However, hidden CCTV cameras to check on carers and the care provided? Well, it doesn’t make it into my vision of future care regimes for the elderly.


Halcyon Home Care appoints Dementia Champion

Homecare-staffHalycon puts Dementia Challenge ideas into action as the local population ages

Halcyon Home Care has appointed a Dementia Champion. Ann Smith, a Senior Carer with 11 years of experience as a care assistant, senior and operation co-ordinator, has accepted the role. She will, with immediate effect, be commencing a best practices programme to support current and future customers in Maidenhead, Windsor and Ascot. In a climate of huge concern over elderly care quality standards Halcyon Home Care is demonstrating its commitment to absolute excellence and putting resources in place to support the growing number of people in Berkshire living with dementia.

Just as in the rest of Britain, Berkshire faces a steadily ageing population and a steady increase in the numbers of people with dementia. Nationally, David Cameron’s Dementia Challenge, which launched in March 2012, aims to tackle the issues affecting people living with dementia by driving improvements in health and care, creating dementia-friendly communities and improving dementia research.  Locally, as the number of people living with the condition increases it is likely to put additional strain on resources. Halcyon Home Care is a CQC-approved care services provider which works with the RWBM local authority as well as with private clients.
This appointment means the business will be better prepared to deliver the very best care possible. The key tasks will be to develop: a shared vision of best practice in caring at home for dementia sufferers; a specialist carer in dementia from a thorough understanding of dementia and the challenges it presents to the provision of care in the home; a training programme to share this knowledge across the Halcyon Home Care workforce; an annual Dementia Care Audit of the practices of Halcyon Home Care for its customers with dementia.

Halcyon Home Care has first-hand understanding of the real need for older people to maintain independence and control. It believes that caring for someone living at home with dementia is an area where all care agencies should endeavour to make improvements in quality. Its recent announcement is a fighting step towards helping to plan for the future now.

Said Ann: “This is an important idea that I wanted to be a part of. It won’t be simple, as in my experience no two people with dementia are affected in the same way or have the same home environment and circumstance. But we already provide care that is appreciated and this work will help us provide it every time to the best of our ability while learning how to do it even better.”

Paul Dunn-Sims, Executive Partner of Halcyon Home Care, commented: “We feel we have to stay at the front of any developments in care practices for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia illnesses. By appointing Ann, we can develop a specialist who remains a hands-on carer and will see it from a care perspective rather than as a medical specialist. Our aim is to develop a culture of best practice and understanding across our care teams, led by the specialist input of Ann that can be called upon when customers need it.”

See press release here

Supplementary information

• The Alzheimer’s Society estimates that by 2021 there will be one million people with a form of dementia in the UK, and that steady growth is expected to over 1.7 million by 2051. The financial cost of dementia to the UK will be over £23 billion in 2012.
• In the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead the population of elderly residents is steadily growing (a result of improved lifestyles, diets, and medical advancements). The RBWM Local Development Framework1 publishes that approximately 15% of the Royal Borough’s population are aged 65 years and over and 2% of the population are aged 85 years and over. This is the highest proportion of all of the authorities in Berkshire. What’s more, population projections for the borough suggest that there will be an increase of nearly 24% in the 65-84 age range, and nearly 55% in the number of over 85 year olds by 2020. With dementia currently affecting 7% of the borough’s population of 65 years and over this is projected to rise by 35% by 2020.

Care not Cameras

security cameraThe launch of the Care Quality Commission’s plans for future regulation of adult social care took the headlines today with its intention to discuss the risks and benefits of surveillance cameras in care homes as a way to flush out rogue care home operators.

While this attempt to garner press coverage succeeded, I think it is a pity, because the news that CQC is setting out ways to ensure improved regulation and inspection of the care sector is a good thing and shouldn’t need “dressing up.”

Contrary to any media speculation that care providers will be quaking in their boots, most of us welcome these plans, and we would welcome increased consultation and greater discussion on the issues of elderly care

Care providers want a care environment where carers deliver a safe, effective, responsive and caring service. We want prospective customers to question us on the style and quality of what we do, and not be led by press speculation that assumes we may need cameras to watch over us in order to do our jobs well.

These proposals have been widely consulted across the sector and we fully support the return of quality ratings between providers and the development of specialist inspectors. We particularly agree with developing inspections that differ between types of provider; It really is a nonsense to have the same approach to inspecting  a hospital as to inspecting a home care provider. We also like the commitment to move away from inspections based on paper-based procedures and documented evidence towards a proper assessment of the care delivered.

Regarding the headlines around  Hidden CCTV and Mystery Shoppers for Care Homes, we would question the feasibility of this as well as its effectiveness. How and at what point in the inspection process would these be installed? How and by whom would coverage be evaluated? It just doesn’t seem to be fully  thought out.

My additional concern is that the rogue care home operators that may require oversight, might welcome CCTV for the wrong reasons, that is, to cut down on staff by monitoring residents remotely from a control centre, rather than in order to improve care.

However, my opinion on regulation and inspection is that it is treating the symptoms and not the problem. For me the key to safe, effective, quality care homes remains well funded care that enables proper recruitment, training and reward for care staff and their managers.

Let’s End Flying Care Visits that Don’t Enable Carers to Provide Care

“Flying care visits” hit the news on Monday with a report that 60% of councils commission care packages of 15 minutes and in one instance a local authority reported that 84% of the care arranged was in 15 minute calls.

stopwatchMedia coverage, while often referencing squeezed Government funding, often also suggested by implication that care workers and care agencies were complicit in this situation.  I want to clarify here that it is the Local Authorities who commission and mandate the care that is to be delivered.  The public officials making these unpopular decisions about care are paid through our taxes, and the public needs to make their dissatisfaction with this felt, lest we risk a growing cultural acceptance that this norm of tightly timed, too-short care visiting is acceptable. It is not.

At Halcyon Home Care we don’t accept 15 minute personal care call commissions. We don’t believe “flying care visits” are reasonable, practical or fair to staff or customers. Above all else, we believe that each care package should be personal and tailored to the needs of the individual, and cannot be purchased in the same way as other types of council ‘bulk’ purchases.  There is little in the way of standardised needs or similarities in the home environment of the care recipient, both of which affect the time and the way we approach designing a care package.

The problem is often a complete mismatch of expectation versus reality. For example, it is wholly unreasonable to expect the following in a 15 minute visit: To arrive at a property, read the notes from the previous visit (no carer can assume everything is the same since their last visit), say hello, how are you etc., help someone physically get up and out of bed, possibly to shuffle with a frame to the bathroom, assist with a full strip-down wash (a bath being completely out of the question on a 15 minute care package), to get dressed, tidy the bedcovers, assist downstairs , then write up notes so that emergency services/doctor/next carer can see what the situation was at the time of the visit … and yes, I haven’t even included any provision for making breakfast!

For many involved in care, the real scandal is not actually in the pressure to complete the tasks in 15 minutes but the way the care has to be delivered under such constraints. For many recipients of care the tasks are certainly important but it is the way they are treated that has the most impact on their well-being. Being rushed and harassed along rather than respected as an individual and treated according to their specific needs is not a dignified or satisfactory experience.

I understand the Local Authorities are under pressure to deliver services under considerable cost pressures. As they mainly commission care services on a time-served basis, this leaves them with only one way to save costs: by cutting the length of calls. However, I know that buying on a time basis is not the only way to purchase care and I call on Local Authorities to consider more innovative approaches including “gain-sharing” contracts (where a fixed price is agreed and the provider manages with any savings on the price shared), “open-book/cost plus” arrangements where the expertise and quality is purchased and valued. I’m sure there are many other models that purchasing experts could propose.

However, whatever needs to happen must happen urgently. As a care industry, it is incumbent on us to reject any growing assumption that 15 minute calls are the acceptable, preeminent solution in commissioning care at home, or one that we, as home care providers, support or are responsible for.

Goodbye Mr C — Successful homecare is allowing people to make their own decisions about care

Last week, we said goodbye to Mr C as he moved into a lovely care home by the river. While we are sad not to continue to visit him, we completely respect his ability to make serious decisions based on his wisdom that comes from having reached over 100 years of age!

Mr C knew what he wanted in the way of support from his carers. He was very particular about what was required and the way it should be done. We provided a small team that covered all his visits and a good relationship with all of them as individuals has been developed. The carers have queued up to tell me how much they will miss Mr C in their lives.

Today, a lovely letter from Mr C arrived in the post thanking me and all the carers for the quality of their caring and the standards of staff practices that we maintain.

The important thing about this decision to go into a care home is that it is entirely his decision at a time of his choosing. Isn’t that what it should be for all of us? While Halcyon is clearly about providing professional carers to support people at home, ultimately it is about helping people to retain their choice of how and where to live their life for as long as possible.

We wish Mr C good health and happiness for the rest of his life and I hope that we can continue to assist in facilitating preferred choice for other elderly people for a very long time.