Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission.

My last blog of the year and a time to reflect on my adult social care heroes of 2015.

Justice for LB

First I would like to pay tribute to two remarkable women — Dr Sara Ryan and Dr George Julian. Sara’s son Connor Sparrowhawk died a preventable death while a patient in the Assessment and Treatment Unit run by Southern Health Foundation NHS Trust in July 2013. In October the inquest (brilliantly tweeted by George) concluded that his death had been contributed to by neglect.

Coping with the loss of your 18 year-old son in unimaginable circumstances, fighting to find out what happened and enduring a two-year wait and then a two-week hearing to uncover the truth would be more than enough for most people, but not Sara. Together with George she has spearheaded the Justice for LB campaign to raise the profile of the rights of people with learning disabilities and secure better services.

It is a campaign that has rattled cages and rightly so. While there are many good people trying to work hard in the system to improve things, the lack of wider interest and the glacial pace of change needs a good shake. It is, however, shameful that this has to be done by grieving and worried families.

But with the publication of the Mazars report last week, comprehensive TV coverage and The Guardian front page yesterday, the tide may be turning. I know my colleague, Dr Paul Lelliott, will make sure that CQC plays its part in ensuring that the interests of people with learning disabilities and their families are placed firmly at the heart of our scrutiny and action.

Sara and George are not alone in agitating for change in our health and care system. There are many others who give their time and enormous commitment to make a difference. As I said in Listen, learn, act — those of us who can make things happen, need to make sure we do.

Experts by Experience

My next heroes are our Experts by Experience — another group of special people who bring their lived experience of care services into our inspections and really help us to get under the skin of services so we can rate them as Good, Outstanding, Requires Improvement or Inadequate. It is probably unfair to single out one out of the many hundreds involved in our work, but Sarah Reed deserves a special mention for flying the co-production flag with me at the NCAS conference in October. You can read all about it in my blog What a week. Thank you to Sarah and all your colleagues.

Speaking truth to power

Ray James is my third hero of the year. The Director of Health, Housing and Adult Social Care in Enfield, Ray is this year’s President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. It’s been a tough year to be President with the Comprehensive Spending Review, Care Act changes, concerns about social care and many other challenges in his inbox. But Ray has been equal to them all with a refreshing candour, sense of humour and direct approach — he truly has been speaking truth to power. Please read his speech to the NCAS conference if you need any persuasion!

Outstanding!

Next up are our outstanding services. I know that much media attention is rightly focussed on those services that fail the people they are meant to support and tackling poor care to encourage services to improve or if necessary close is, and always will be, a vital role for CQC.

But it was great to start 2015 congratulating our first top ratings for adult social care services in England. Since then we have had the joy of seeing and hearing about many more services providing person-centred care, supporting their staff, paying attention to detail and always trying to improve so they can deliver truly great care that makes a real difference to people’s lives.

Our performance ratings have helped to highlight this and I look forward to celebrating even more services getting it right in 2016.

Everyday heroes

Last but not least are the heroes who work day-in, day-out in social care to deliver services that meet the Mum Test — care we would be happy for ourselves or anyone we love to receive. Consistently we rate the question “is the service caring?” as good or outstanding and often receive amazing feedback from people who use services, their families and carers.

Hot off the press in a report published this week is the Cherwell Centre in Rochdale. Comments include: “The staff are perfect, they spoil us” and “The staff are all nice, friendly and kind.” One professional contacted prior to the inspection also said: “Whenever I visit the centre, it is a happy, vibrant atmosphere.”

Comments in our report published over the summer for Eden House in County Durham included: “The staff are just like my family, I love it here.” A relative added: “Eden House is like no other. It stands out above everything I have ever seen, so caring and an absolutely marvellous place.”

Another example popped into my twitter timeline this morning — a moving and poignant blog from Amanda Reynolds whose mother died while having respite care in a residential home last week. Amanda’s blog demonstrates how dedicated staff, committed to providing person-centred care can really make a difference and have such an impact on the lives of people using services, their families and carers.

That pretty much meets my definition of heroes — thanks to all.

Festive season

So that’s me signing off for the year. There have been some tough times for us all but also some highlights as the stories of my heroes show. There is much more to do in 2016 in adult social care and in CQC. I am looking forward to meeting those challenges by working with people using services, their families and carers; providers; commissioners; our national and local partners and our staff.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a peaceful, relaxing Christmas and a Happy New Year and if you are working or caring while others are enjoying themselves, thank you.

Originally published at www.cqc.org.uk.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

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