Typically, winter sees increased levels of staff sickness and travel disruption brought about by bad weather. These can impact the ability of care companies to continue delivering high-quality care. It can also make the working day more stressful for colleagues who are working as the same amount of work needs to be done but is spread between fewer people.
To avoid service disruption, its vital care companies have a contingency plan to ensure continuity of care even when unforeseen circumstances arrive. Here are some top tips for care centre managers looking to cope with the challenges of winter:
- Staff rosters and scheduling: Look back at sickness levels from recent years to get an idea of how you might be affected this winter. Remember to take into consideration the impact Covid had and prepare for more typical sickness levels.
- Have alternatives in place: Now is the time to consider how you will deal with staff shortages. Firstly, make sure current staffing levels meet expected capacity. If they’re not sufficient, look at recruiting new team members. Consider bank staff in case of excessively high levels of sickness and speak to recruitment companies about temporary staff arrangements. Remember, safe staffing levels are one of the Care Quality Commission standards.
- Upskill existing staff: Recruitment can be expensive, so think about whether training and upskilling your existing staff is a better idea. This enables you to redeploy staff to fill unexpected gaps. For example, if all staff are aware of essentials such as adult safeguarding practices, you can continue to offer care services even when illness strikes.
- Carry out vehicle maintenance checks: If you supply company vehicles, do a winter safety check to test tyre treads, brakes, lights, fluid levels and wiper blades. If carers use their own cars, encourage them to do it themselves. Lots of garages will carry out free winter safety checks, so it need not cost them anything unless any repairs are needed.
- Show support: When numbers are low and the pressure is on, it can be tempting to avoid taking breaks. But this is counterproductive. Staff who become tired are more prone to making mistakes. They are also more likely to take time off with stress. Set about establishing a culture of wellbeing and support now so staff understand the value of breaks in service delivery.
- Cross-team collaboration: Communication is key to efficiency. Trying to establish lines of communication between individuals or departments while in the midst of a crisis is exceedingly difficult. Set the standard early to avoid this pitfall.
- Embrace the digital revolution: Think about potential problems you may face and whether there are digital solutions that will help you overcome them. For example, can some admin tasks be done without having to return to the office?
- Continuous improvement: Establishing a culture of continuous improvement makes it easier to implement change. When team members are open to new ideas and reflective assessment, trialling new or different ways of doing things becomes second nature. This trait comes into its own when the pressure is on, and you need people to muck in and help out.
Understanding winter challenges
These are just some ideas to consider when making a winter contingency plan for carers. The most important thing is to take some time out to sit and think about all the possible challenges winter may bring to your organisation and put plans in place now so you’re ready to react when the need arises.
For maximum benefit, speak to staff to find out what issues they typically face or expect to encounter. Not only will this make staff feel valued and help you create a more comprehensive plan, but it will also get your team on board with it.
Creating a winter contingency plan for care companies has several benefits, including:
- Continuity of care
- Regulatory compliance
- Patient satisfaction
- Supports carer wellbeing
- Reduces unexpected costs
At Richmond, we have years of experience in helping care managers create positive working environments to handle every challenge the industry can throw at them.
When you get in contact with us, we’ll take time to talk through the training needs of your business as determined by your current position and future plans. In many cases, upskilling staff is the most cost-effective solution to maintaining business continuity in challenging circumstances. Plus, it comes with the added benefit of showing your staff you’re invested in their progression.