Each month I get up close with key stakeholders in social care. This month I meet Ann Taylor, CEO at Hilton Nursing Partners and Chair of the Kent Integrated Care Alliance.
Tell us a bit about your business? What makes it different to a traditional domiciliary care service?
Hilton Nursing Partners provide short term services focussed on post hospital discharge recovery and on maximising the people’s independence. It is a much more flexible model than domiciliary care, delivering the support that each person needs, when they need it. This flexibility ensures that those we support get the maximum benefit from the service. It is often the case that additional support in the first few days post discharge can significantly reduce or eliminate ongoing support. Our services range from 5 days to 42 days, and our focus is 100% on maximising independence of each person.
We had the advantage of starting Hilton from scratch, and partly as a result of the directors’ background and experience of domiciliary care we adopted guiding principles including:
- All staff to be on permanent contracts of employment and salaried.
- There must be a career path that enables the best care staff to develop and progress.
- The care support provided to people must reflect what they need at that point in time.
- All employees must have the opportunity to be a part owner of the company.
Our belief is that a professional work force, with our investment in ongoing skills development, will deliver the best outcomes for everyone we support.
As well as being a care provider you are also Chair of the Kent Integrated Care Alliance (KICA). How do you juggle these different roles and how do they complement one another?
I am lucky to have an amazing team within Hilton. We operate as a partnership where no one person more important than another, and I have complete confidence that the team will always make decisions in line with our values and philosophy.
When I first worked in care, a very wise mentor within the sector told me that you can never change anything without being brave and vocal for the things you truly believe in. It is not always easy to put yourself in a firing line, but my passion about the need for social care reform drives me on. Our social care system is broken, and it urgently requires and deserves the focus and resources to create a system that offers excellent, consistent care, provides career progression to its work force, and bridges the gap between health and social care. For all the positive sentiment we have heard on social care during the pandemic, I think we need to remember the words of the great Nelson Mandela who said: ‘Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely daydreaming, but vision with action can change the world’.
How has Covid impacted your business?
As the majority of our work is focused on hospital discharge services, Covid impacted immensely on everything we do. We were able to anticipate many of the impacts through planning sessions we held leading up to the first lockdown. As a result of these, we proposed opening a Care Hotel. Having gained CCG and local authority approval and identified suitable premises, the care hotel was operational within four weeks. It was amazing to see how quickly we went from proposal to authorisation to becoming operational.
We also set up a Covid positive discharge pathway for those people ‘stuck’ in hospital awaiting test results. The pressure on the whole health and social care system meant that this service played a key role in freeing up vital hospital beds at a time when the NHS was under serious pressure.
As with other providers, PPE was a particular issue in the first lockdown. We committed to our employees that we would ensure that they had always had an adequate supply of compliant PPE. This was challenging, but we checked all deliveries to ensure that they were compliant. In spite of having to reject some supplies that offered little or no protection, and paying crazy amounts at times, we met our commitment.
We launched a recruitment campaign in the early days of lockdown which was specifically targeted at new entrants to the sector and returners. This was very successful in bringing in staff from a variety of backgrounds who would probably not have considered a career in health and social care at any other time.
- What lessons did you learn from the pandemic and how will this shape your business going forward?
The main lesson learned is to listen to your own self, support each other and make things happen! From a business point of view, I think we have found ourselves on a rollercoaster of emotions but trusting our own ability and not compromising on the quality of what we do has ensured our staff and the people we support have been able to rely on us continually through the pandemic.
The speed of decision making and willingness of commissioners to take risks was notable particularly in the early days of the pandemic. As a company that thrives on innovation we very much hope that the commissioning environment continues to be one of managing risk rather than risk avoidance.
- You organise the Kent Care Awards which will be particularly poignant this year. How did the nominations differ as a result of Covid?
The nominations for the Kent care awards have again shone a light on the fabulous work our unsung heroes on the frontline have been tirelessly achieving through this most difficult time. I am extremely proud and humbled by the candidates this year, and the opportunity to showcase these individuals is inspiring for us all. We have seen our staff go above and beyond every day to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are safe and well despite the restrictions imposed upon them, whilst they themselves put their own feelings of apprehension and concern for their own safety on hold. Such bravery and selflessness deserves recognition and reward which we hope to achieve through the Kent Care Awards.
- What is your vision for your service over the next 12 months?
We are going to keep innovating and keep finding better ways to do things. For example, we have recently started a service which supports stroke patient rehabilitation following their discharge from hospital. We are upskilling our staff so that they can support and monitor their therapy programme. This service ticks a lot of boxes for me as it offers skills development, reduces re-admissions and integrates health and social care. My aim over the next year is to continue to develop into new areas, and to give our employees the opportunity to learn and use new skills. We have also piloted technology solutions that can assist to identify trends and issues, and I see technology becoming a more significant element of our services in the next 12 months.