We have continued to provide high-quality homecare to our customers throughout the lockdown period. All our carers have all been trained in Coronavirus infection control and our operations policies and procedures are continually reviewed to deliver the latest Government advice. The safety and well-being of our customers and carers is always our top priority.
For latest guidance, information and updates on the Coronavirus visit GOV.UK Public Health England.

A Filing Cabinet and a New Chair

There are some business milestones they never teach you on a management course. I don’t recall any lecturer saying how the purchase of a filing cabinet and a new chair requires a reflection on the progress of the business.

But the new filing cabinet spoke to me today and said “Boy, do we desperately need more space for the information on the growing number of customers and staff we now have.”

So, why do we need more filing capacity? Because it appears that our past and present customers are telling others about the quality of the care we’re providing and our services.

And how are we achieving this reputation? Well, the only answer is to be found in the carers we employ and what they do. We make huge promises in our Care Plans when we commit to care for someone, but that’s all they are “promises” until we actually start to deliver. Our carers have to adjust to a different elderly person’s home environment in every call. There are general standards that we deploy but they have to adjust to a different care regime, different preferences with or without medication, with or without mental or physical capacity, in each call — and we recognise this. We have always acted upon a belief that the only way to look after our customers is through looking after our staff, by paying the best in the area, by nurturing their career ambitions and by trying to develop them as best we can. It didn’t take me too much strategic analysis to see that our staff are the reason why the business needs more filing space and is growing rapidly across Maidenhead, Windsor and Ascot!

Oh, and the new chair? Well, that was in homage to Zig Ziglar and his comment that “You don’t build a business. You build people and then people build the business.” Our success is Tracy’s. She controls the standards and the systems within which our carers operate, and she deserves a new chair … even if there was another two years left in her old one!

Paul Dunn-Sims

Our growth news coincides with CQC Inspection update


Good management of a domiciliary care agency takes more than just ticking boxes

The CQC inspectors have just returned our annual inspection report and we are delighted to announce that a great CQC report coincides with the news that we have just exceeded 400 care hours per week, and now employ 25 people  — a significant milestone we set out to achieve and are now surpassing.

We’d like to share some of the CQC findings with you. It just goes to show once again that boxes can be ticked, but to really come up to scratch you have to see the evidence in the comments behind the boxes. So we are happy to report that not only are we meeting all the standards, but have surpassed expectations in certain areas.

We were found to have met the standard for Respecting and Involving people, Care and Welfare of people, Safeguarding people from abuse, Supporting workers, Assessing and monitoring the quality of service provision — and we would expect nothing less. What really matters is what both our customers and their relatives, and our carers and their managers, told the CQC about us.

Here’s a summary of what they found:

From our customers:

“People were wholly complimentary about the quality of the service they received with one person describing staff as ‘really lovely’ and said staff went ‘beyond the scope of what they need to do.’

Other people described staff as ‘respectful’ and ‘very well trained.’

One person said the manager was ‘very particular about the staff they employed.’”

This is exactly one of our top priorities and it’s good to know it’s being noticed.

From our staff:

“Staff felt supported and one, who was new in the post, found the support helpful in making them feel comfortable in their role. Staff were also motivated and said they enjoyed their work.”

And here are some first-hand remarks that support our top priorities — the report highlights that we keep our promises.

Involving people in their care plan, giving them control and respect:  “We saw there was a clear schedule of support the person had planned with staff and the times this was to be delivered. The schedule was supported by detailed individualised care plans. People we spoke with said they had been involved in their care planning and were able to request changes and we saw these requests were acted upon.”

Treating people with dignity:  “Staff spoke with confidence about how they ensured people were treated with respect and dignity and gave examples of how they did this when supporting people with their personal care needs. People using the service, and relatives, said staff were always respectful and showed regard for people’s dignity and independence.”

Keeping people safe from abuse:  People who used the service told us they felt safe with the care staff allocated to provide their support. Staff told us they were up to date with their safeguarding training and we saw records of certificates, in staff files, to confirm this. The information provided, together with our observations demonstrated that people were protected against the risk of abuse.”

Regular vetting and training of staff:  “We saw that staff were regularly assessed. Managers carried out regular checks to assess staff performance and also to offer support and guidance to staff. Staff said they had enough time to carry out their duties effectively and we saw that staff always stayed at a person’s home for the allocated time to ensure they were providing the most effective care they could.”

It’s great when a homecare agency can be upfront about its operations; none should have anything to hide.



Should I be the home carer for my elderly relative?


Some family members tussle with the idea of bringing in home care for ageing loved ones or providing it themselves. Some might believe they can provide the same level of care for the person they love, and save money too.

We spend a large amount of money on training and supervising staff in safe, effective care practices. Consider that, when doing this job, your loved ones deserve your ability to do it as well as the trained professionals, without risking anyone’s health or well-being. Doing things without adequate knowledge – like lifting and helping them move around – you could be putting yourself at risk too. We are also continually amazed at the stories of people who have given up rewarding jobs and careers only to discover the hardship of carer burn-out, or find it just as difficult when carer dependency develops. Our carers do this job because they love it – and because they have trained hard to be the best at it. They are friendly but always professional and have different customers on their rounds to make sure the change and variety helps reduce their stress levels from the more difficult cases. They build relationships but are able to remain objective and act in the care recipient’s interests.


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.


Mrs B Defines Quality Carers

What is a carer? If you are to believe the basic definition of a carer then it is simply “a family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person.” What a cold and limiting description that is. It allows for none of the real feeling, empathy or positive motivation that comes from high-quality carers in Halcyon as we deliver elderly home care services in the Windsor, Maidenhead and Ascot areas.

I feel affronted for our carers at the continued media stories of sub-standard care in the residential sector which corrodes the reputation of the entire care community. It also promotes a huge disservice to those individuals who choose to take up a career in care, which the better ones find hugely rewarding despite not being highly paid or glamorous.

In my opinion this is where the current political trend to bring the measurement of care back to tick boxes and standardised tests diverges from sense and experience. Certainly standards are essential – but this approach entirely misses the fact that each individual carer brings a unique personality, emotion and set of skills to the role, and we think that is wonderful. We have our own standard operating procedures but they have been carefully designed so as to allow the personalities of each individual carer to shine through when they’re with a customer. We recognise that what makes one person a good carer and another less so is not something you can define purely through standard tests and measures.

This week, Mrs B, one of our customers in Maidenhead, summed this up beautifully. She told me, “One of my friends said to me ‘I don’t know how you could have strangers in your home helping you with care,’ to which I replied: They’re not strangers. They’re my carers and they’re lovely. In just a little time they become very close to you.”  She went on to speak about different carers and how she loved their differences.

We can’t necessarily give our homecarers a glamorous career, but we pay them above the norm, invest in them and do our very best to show them how much we value them. But at the end of the day, the value placed upon them by their customers is the most telling, and most welcomed, measure. That’s why we always ask for home care customer reviews – because they, and only they, really can define what good quality care looks like, and what a good home carer for the elderly delivers.

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.

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.

Local war hero leaves gift for home carers who became true friends and companions


Bequest from Fred Smith (d)  of Maidenhead, 88, shows how tailored care and respect for individuality  can help independently minded individuals accept and welcome care

Senior home carers Maggie Wallen and Ann Lockley from Halcyon Homecare in Maidenhead were today honoured at a quiet presentation ceremony. They were presented with a photograph in a silver photo frame and a Dartington glass carriage clock each, in the name of Fred Smith, who had been a home care client since 2010 until his death in February 2013. Executor Barrie Mair presented the gift on Fred’s behalf. 
Fred Smith suffered from a variety of chronic illnesses including Crohn’s disease, Sjogen’s Syndrome and skin cancers, but it was his personal views and desire to find a compatible carer which led him to Maggie and Ann. He didn’t want a carer without some maturity; it was important to him as he felt that a young person simply would not be able to appreciate fully what he had gone through in his youth – which was partly responsible for his state of health years later.  His aged and croaky yet still authoritative and military-style voice was often to be heard on the phone, demanding small adjustments and, early on, changes in his care routine.  These ebbed away as the perfect team and balance of care was established.
Operations Director Tracy Barratt says: “Fred was a character! He could be very demanding but we worked with him from the position of respecting his individuality first and foremost, and then tailoring both our care package and our care team to suit his requirements. The gifts of thanks that Fred has left for his carers are a testament to how home care can be managed well. Done well, it enables people not only to realise their own personal choices, but accept care on their own terms. We’ll miss him.”
Halcyon Homecare visited Fred 3 times a day, spending over 1600 hours with him over more than 2 years.  The company believes that spending such a length of time with someone is a foundation for real relationships. It specialises in tailored home care which takes into account the customer’s own personal perspective, never only reflecting the theoretical needs based on health or mobility and the instructions of a client relative. 
Commenting this morning Paul Dunn-Sims, managing director of Halcyon Homecare, said: “We always advise our clients against making will bequests, but a gift is very different. It is personal, reflects the real personal relationships which can grow between a person and their carers, and will be accepted gracefully and, probably, with a few tears too,” He continued “Fred wasn’t an ‘old person’ or even just ‘a customer.’ He was on the beaches on D-Day on his 18th birthday. He was a great character who never lost any of his fire to tell us what he wanted – and we were pleased to design a care package around his needs.”
“You can’t do this job well if you don’t care,” says Maggie Wallen.