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

A core CQC value is Excellence; our desire to be a high performing organisation. One way we suggest we can achieve this is by being “constantly curious”. After last week’s blog about learning from our own experiences, this week I’ve been learning from others.

Before I do though, I just wanted to thank all of you who sent good wishes, commented or shared my blog last week. It means a great deal to me.

Black Poppies

I had two fantastic opportunities to learn from others last week. The first was organised by CQC’s Race Equality Network to celebrate the start of Black History Month. We heard from Stephen Bourne, author of Black Poppies illuminating the rarely heard experience of black soldiers in the First World War and the black community at home. This is just the latest of several books Stephen has written to bring black history out of the shadows. Stephen has challenged common misconceptions and highlighted hidden stories that deserve wider recognition and greater understanding. Perhaps we need someone to do the same for adult social care?

Allan Charles Wilmot

Fittingly as 1 October was also Older People’s Day, Stephen was followed by 90 year old Allan Charles Wilmot, born and brought up in Jamaica. Allan kindly shared his World War Two experiences in the Royal Navy and the RAF and his life in post-war Britain as an entertainer. Allan was wonderful — full of humour, lively anecdotes and wisdom. He remembered being very surprised that people in this country did not know about Jamaica because he’d been taught all about Britain! An absence of curiosity you might say.

There are many 90 year olds using social care services with amazing stories to tell. When time is precious and there is so much to be done, it may be difficult to take the time to stop and listen. But we should.

Black History Month

It was a great morning, well-organised by Rudo Dhliwayo, the Chair of the Race Equality Network. A chance for us to celebrate the diversity of our community, learn and reflect upon the contribution we all make. There are all sorts of Black History Month events happening throughout October — why not take a look locally? I am pretty sure you’ll learn something new.

Learning in Leeds

On Friday I travelled north to meet colleagues from the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University to hear about their work in developing adult social care through education and research. It was also an opportunity for me to share our work at CQC and to explore the common purpose we have in encouraging improvement.

It was a fascinating morning. On the education side there was a real desire to strengthen opportunities for people to develop their careers in social care, particularly in nursing. I especially liked the innovative creative writing module Professor Karen Spilsbury described where students befriended an older person, talked to them about their life and wrote it up as a short story, which have then been published. We discussed the familiar problems of lack of funding and difficult logistics and how these could be addressed through local collaboration. I highlighted how important this is given the issues we are finding about staffing and training through our inspections.

I have often felt that in adult social care we do not have a strong tradition of research to develop our practice — but my abiding impression of the day is that there is no shortage of great ideas and desire to do just that in Leeds! I heard about research projects looking at care home staffing and quality; the role of the registered nurse in care homes; administration of medicines in care homes; how to optimise GP services in care homes; and understanding the experience of people living with dementia. So much to learn from!

Many thanks to my friend Jo Wass who invited me up to Leeds and everyone for sharing their time so generously but especially Professor Andrea Nelson who organised such an interesting day for me.

Research into practice

But in a practical world like ours, putting the results of that research into practice is what matters. Professor Michelle Briggs described the evaluation of a peripatetic clinical skills trainer employed to develop the skills of staff working in care homes. The study concluded:

“The impact case studies here suggest an overall picture of a positive contribution to care delivery in care homes. The most common reports were reports of a reduction in use of NHS community nursing and GP resources, improved pressure ulcer prevention and a positive contribution in relation to safeguarding issues.”

I asked the obvious question — so what is happening now? To be told, the post was not renewed. The saddest comment of the day was:

“Everyone thinks it is a good thing to do, but not my responsibility to do it.”

Curiosity killed the cat?

They say curiosity killed the cat — but I think there’s a much more positive way to look at it. We need to be curious to improve as long as we remember that learning isn’t just for the classroom and research not just for the peer-reviewed publication — both have to help us make a difference in the lived reality of people using adult social care services.

Originally published at

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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