A unique approach to skills development has ensured Cartmel Grange lead the way in quality of care.
Cartmel Grange has been in the caring business for over 100 years. The home – built in 1914 and set amid landscaped grounds and with panoramic views over Morecambe Bay – was originally a convalescent residence for miners. For the last 25 years it has provided 24-hour nursing and dementia care for the elderly across South Cumbria. But times, and demands, change – and over the last two years the home has taken it upon itself to improve its quality service by providing external upskilling opportunities for its staff.
In partnership with Furness College, employees are encouraged to expand their existing knowledge base by attaining qualifications in a variety of relevant subjects, including dementia care, safeguarding, infection control, end-of-life care, nutrition and health.
The 12-week courses take the form of distance learning, enabling staff to fit their studies around their shifts and home life. For relatives of the home’s 73 residents, this provides much-needed peace of mind. And it’s a system which suits the workforce, according to Cartmel Grange’s manager Melanie Williamson.
“Classroom-based study would have been a logistical nightmare with the number of staff working shifts, which is why distance learning has proved so successful,” she says. “We submit our workbooks to the college, they are marked and feedback is sent out via email. “The tutor is always at the end of the phone should anyone need to contact her for support, but I haven’t yet known of anyone who has done so.”
Once members of staff have completed their qualification, they become “Champions” of that particular discipline within the home, experts in their field and able to mentor new employees.
There are currently 24 staff enrolled on various courses, and according to Melanie it is this personal investment that makes them so popular.
“We have a situation here where you have better-trained staff who enjoy their work more and are more fulfilled and better motivated. They understand the reasoning behind what they are doing, it’s not the case of them feeling forced into it.
“For that reason they tend to stay longer, which means happier and better cared-for residents and we don’t have the workforce ‘churn’ that perhaps other homes in the sector have.”
Cartmel Grange – which is part of the Cheshire-based Brancaster Care Homes Group – prides itself on an unrivalled reputation in this part of the county. It has always taken a proactive approach to staff training. Indeed an indication of how seriously they take it is the fact that for the last six years they have had a full-time training co-ordinator.
Heather Price is one of the longest-serving employees, having started as a relief domestic in 1995 before working up to a position as a senior carer. She is also the home’s training co-ordinator.
“The courses are very popular, and you’ll often hear staff comparing notes on their homework!” Heather says. “But the level of training is also an incentive when we are looking to recruit. People come to interview knowing that by working here they will have the opportunity to develop.” The relationship between the home and Furness College dates back to 2014 when they were supported via The Edge. Funded by the European Social Fund and co-financed by the Skills Funding Agency, it is designed to support workforce development within the SME sector by helping to recruit apprentices and find training opportunities.
The college is one of a number of Edge delivery partners and is able to provide fully-funded training to participating businesses. Business account officer Ewan Scott first approached Cartmel Grange to discuss their training needs, and having identified their requirements was able to work with Melanie and her team to facilitate the relevant courses.
“The distance learning aspect particularly suits the care sector, and because of our close working relationship we were able to organise it so the initial induction sessions took place at the home rather than at the college,” he says.
The distance learning aspect particularly suits the care sector, and because of our close working relationship we were able to organise it so the initial induction sessions took place at the home rather than at the college.
“It’s working really well. People see the value of it, they value the training and most importantly they have the opportunity to learn new skills.” While the courses undeniably benefit the staff at Cartmel Grange, they also play a crucial role in ensuring that the home itself remains at the forefront of an increasingly competitive market.
“We have earned a reputation for having a well-trained, well-developed workforce,” says Melanie. “But we need to maintain that, and upskilling our staff will enable us to have a broader impact within the care sector.”
In particular, Melanie believes the work that is being done on end-of-life care will contribute to the home achieving accreditation from the Gold Standards Framework, an organisation dedicated to improving the standard of care for elderly people nearing the end of their lives. Similarly, courses on dementia will feed into work the home is currently doing on dementia awareness with the University of Stirling.
“There really isn’t any downside, because training the staff not only benefits them but benefits the residents and the reputation of Cartmel Grange,” she says.
“A care home is a busy, 24/7 operation and under normal circumstances it would be impossible to send people off on 12-week courses. But Furness College have been brilliant to work with, and the flexibility they offer has made it very easy to incorporate study with work.
“I would encourage all businesses to think about developing their staff through further training. There is a huge amount of untapped potential out there, and the benefits to the business itself can be significant.”
There really isn’t any downside, because training the staff not only benefits them but benefits the residents and the reputation of Cartmel Grange.