Experts by Experience — changing the way we inspect

Maggie Sokolow, Expert by Experience talks about her virtual visit:

“Living in the strange times that we do, I didn’t find being asked to virtually visit a care home entirely surprising, although I wasn’t quite sure how it would all work. The inspector invited me to the Teams meeting and introduced me to the Regional Director (RD) and Deputy Manager (DM) of the care center and once I felt comfortable, left me to get on with things as normal - or as normal as they could be given the circumstances!

The DM was quite nervous, as was I, though this helped us form a bond and a let’s give this a go type of approach to making the most of our time. We set off around the home, the DM carrying me as a face on the laptop! We visited all the areas of the home I would expect to in a normal situation, and I was able to ask questions and observe the residents living their everyday life. Of course, in a normal situation I would have been able to use all of my senses and make observations from a number of different aspects but as we moved around the DM helpfully used the laptop’s camera to offer as broad a view as possible of real time activity.

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I was introduced to some residents who were a bit surprised to see a disembodied head speaking to them; I had worried this would be difficult for them, but the DM was there to explain what was happening and help those who were hard of hearing with my questions. We had quite a fun time and soon set up some banter.

The DM suggested she leave me for a while so that residents could talk more freely. This worked well and by the time she returned I felt there was a rapport between me and the residents. I could tell the residents I had been speaking to were settled and happy and were able to see their relatives albeit in a controlled way.

I spent about an hour and a half on the call and have to say I really enjoyed the experience. I felt part of the inspection team in that people could see me and I could talk directly to them. There was also an added bonus as, when I made calls to relatives the next day, I was able to picture the person using services and see them in their home.

Although this is not a perfect way for us as Experts by Experience (ExE) to engage with people who use services, it is a way forward during the pandemic and perhaps the CQC could think of how they can expand this for future. Different types of inspections might benefit from this technology. For example, setting up a clinic where the ExE is ‘virtual’ at specific times for people to come and chat and give feedback. Or perhaps with people’s permission having a video call with people in their homes when carrying out a DCA.

Obviously, some people (and ExEs) will be more comfortable with using technology but the one thing the pandemic has taught us is that there is more than one way to do things.”

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