Discovery Latest5 July 2018
You’ll have seen by now that the Saplings received a Requires Improvement rating in its most recent CQC inspection, and that a reporter from the Somerset Gazette was quick to approach us for a comment (of course, we didn’t get a call about the five other Good ratings we have received.)
I’ll share with you what I told her. Then I’ll share what I wanted to say but couldn’t.
I told her that:
‘I’m obviously disappointed that the Saplings was found to Require Improvement by the CQC, and we are already taking steps to resolve the issues that the inspector identified. This is the first Discovery registered location to be found to Require Improvement – we have had Good ratings in our three previous inspections and in two more as yet unpublished drafts.
There were significant positives within the report, and indeed the service was rated Good in 3 of the 5 inspection areas. In particular I’d like to acknowledge the following feedback on the support workers at the Saplings: ‘People were cared for by staff who were kind and compassionate. Long term staff had built trusting relationships with people and tried to involve them in day to day activities according to people’s abilities. People’s physical needs were well managed and staff ensured people had opportunities for social stimulation.’
Highlighting positives should not mask the negatives, and I look forward to resolving these and achieving a successful re-inspection in due course.’
What I wanted to tell her was that this is a team working flat out to deliver quality support in the face of the local manager being absent due to significant health issues, and with considerable insecurity around the restructure, that the timing of the inspection was therefore grossly unfortunate. I accept that record keeping and the safe storage of medicines are serious issues and we must fix this without delay but I wanted her to know that I was proud of the team there.
Now, across the entire Dimensions Group, this is currently the only service that is rated as Requiring Improvement (64 Good, 3 Outstanding.) Dimensions approach to supporting people is consistently rated by CQC as amongst the very best in the sector. The data refutes the allegation above.
In saying that, I’m not hanging The Saplings out to dry. I stand with the team there, I know how hard they work, I understand the exceptional circumstances and I am sure the re-inspection will be positive.
Now I want to talk more broadly.
For many Discovery colleagues, this is a tough time. For any single colleague facing redundancy, and I say that from personal experience, it will always be one colleague too many. I know that it prompts conversations about loyalty and respect. I know that for many people, it is only the thought of ‘what would happen to the person I support’ that keeps many people coming into work.
And yet the restructure will happen. It must. Somerset was virtually the last local authority in the country to outsource its learning disability support provision. The rest of the country moved on years ago. And in doing so, the rest of the country found ways to deliver the highest quality support at a much lower cost than that paid in Somerset.
When I compare the colleagues employed in Dimensions with colleagues employed in Discovery, I see many similarities. In both organisations I see people who have spent a lifetime in the care sector, doing their level best for the person they support. I see proud people, people who come to work to make a difference, not dragging themselves in because they have to.
In fact, the differences that I see aren’t about the people at all. They’re cultural and structural. Frontline colleagues are expected and trusted to make many more decisions in Dimensions compared to Discovery, for example. At Dimensions there is between 2-4 levels of management between support worker and managing director; at Discovery there’s as many as 8. Frankly, sometimes too many cooks really can spoil the broth. People may protest on assumed safety grounds – I would politely refer them back to those CQC ratings. Evidence shows us that 8 layers of management don’t prevent failings.
Changing a culture is the hardest thing to do, especially when it has all the history of a local authority bureaucracy behind it. But change will happen, because it must, and the future is brighter than the past for people with learning disabilities in Somerset. The real question is whether you – and now I mean you personally, valued colleague – whether you will drive that change and all the opportunity that comes with it – or let it pass you by?