Making person-centred care real

Gail Godson is joint-owner of Home Instead Senior Care West Lancashire and Chorley, rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission.

With more than 30 years’ experience in the health care service, primarily within the NHS as a clinician and senior manager, Gail is also a registered manager member of Skills for Care.

Here, she writes about how we can make person-centred care real.

"To me, person-centred care isn’t new (I’ve been a nurse for over 37 years) but it is important to make the term real for people.

When we recruit, we use questions which ask people about their own experiences, thoughts and feelings. For instance, we might ask them for an example of a time when they’ve encouraged someone to do something they didn’t want to do; or we will ask “what do you think a quality service is?”

You can answer these questions whether you’ve worked in care before or not - and that’s key; induction starts at interview here and we’re looking for the right people first. When we recruit, we always apply the ‘mum test’ – “would I leave that person with my mum or dad?”

This approach carries into induction itself: I use the ‘toast analogy’ when I take new groups of staff through induction. In short – “how do you like your toast? I like mine burnt.” – everyone has a different preference (even the ones who don’t like toast). I use this discussion to bring people back to the value and importance of knowing our clients’ preferences; it makes thinking about people’s choices real to new staff.

And for staff who complete their induction or existing staff, we keep this focus. Alongside our support visits (we don’t call them ‘spot checks’; they’re a developmental activity, not a test) I have a standard question in our supervision template for staff – “tell me something about x?” This isn’t something about their care, it’s something about them…for example “Gail likes the beach”. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s these details that support and underpin our culture and values.

Of course, part of maintaining a person-centred approach is making sure our staff are trained and stay up-to-date. Every member of staff has a personal development plan (PDP) and alongside our induction training and arranging care specific training, we regularly arrange expert-by-experience speakers linked to national awareness days or weeks.

We’ve heard from local community teams, nurses, occupational therapists and others. These links don’t just help us; they mean that these teams and services better understand us! 

I lead by example and just like my staff, it’s important that as a registered manager I stay up-to-date and have access to resources; this is one of the reasons that I am a member of Skills for Care. Alongside membership I spend a lot of time looking at new legislation and best practice, I’m part of professional networks (and not just care networks) and I make time for study days; including a recent leadership course.

The approach we take means that everyone in the organisation is focused on person-centred continuous improvement and my staff are empowered to challenge me and make suggestions. Our meal planner, praised by the CQC when we were inspected, came from a staff suggestion – I love it when staff have the confidence to do this.”