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

Last week I was invited to speak about leadership in Adult Social Care at a stakeholder event CQC had organised, which in reality was a thinly disguised farewell do for me!

However, I had taken my brief seriously and did speak about leadership so I thought I would share the key points in my last ever blog for CQC.

Leadership Matters

Carol Services usually have Nine Lessons to tell the Christmas story — but I confined myself to just five lessons to share my thoughts on leadership in adult social care. And never has leadership in our sector been more important than now.

The problems faced by people with physical and learning disabilities, mental health problems or older people, their families and carers are growing. The challenges for staff, providers and commissioners in a Brexit-confused, austerity stricken world are also growing.

But people using adult social care services should not have to settle for second best. To make sure they can rely on great care, we need leaders who can turn aspiration into reality. But how?

First lesson, we need a vision people can understand and share

CQC’s vision is to make sure more people get great care but the ‘Mum Test’ has transformed our vision into something everyone understands.

A simple test — is this a service I would be happy for my Mum or anyone I love to use? If it is, that’s fantastic and we should celebrate it. If it’s not, we have to do something about it.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be your Mum. It can be your Dad, your child, your friend, you.

I never realised in 2013 the impact the Mum Test would have — though using my Mum’s photo from my wedding day in all my presentations probably helped. I don’t think she realises quite how famous she has become. Thanks, Mum!

Second lesson, good leaders have humility

They understand none of us can do this alone. It is not a sign of weakness to gather a great team around you — it is a sign of strength. There is no way I could have done this job without the help of others. Good leaders recognise that and say thank you.

My list of thank you’s would put Oscar winners to shame — I have been standing on the shoulders of giants. The CQC Board and Executive Team; my leadership team who have all been fantastic; the ASC inspection and registration teams who have worked so hard to improve standards; and the hundreds of people across the organisation who work with and support the adult social care directorate. I owe them all an enormous debt of gratitude.

Third, it’s not good enough just to lead in your own team, your own organisation. Great leadership is more than that

One of the key boundaries to cross in adult social care is to work with health. Our work reviewing local systems has shown just how important it is for systems, leaders and teams to work together for the benefit of people using services, their families and carers. It’s not easy to do but it is absolutely worth the effort.

Coproduction has also been an important feature of my time at CQC working with people using services and carers; providers and their staff; commissioners and national partners. We have learnt from each other, sometimes argued but we have achieved so much together not least providing the bedrock for the sector’s commitment to quality in Quality Matters.

CQC has been blessed by the enthusiasm and commitment of everyone working with us. Thank you to you all.

The fourth lesson is: be human

In a people business like ours, leaders have got to be human. If we bring our whole selves to work, show that in our leadership, we can help others do the same. And we know when they do, they will do a better job — connecting to the humanity of what adult social care is all about.

And sometimes it’s the small things that matter. I remember one of our team stopping me in the ladies loos at CQC to say thank you for making it acceptable for women to wear flat shoes at work. It had never occurred to me that this wouldn’t be acceptable, but I’m glad it helped!

And don’t be afraid to be a bit different — I’ve written loads of times about the power of music in care, but it was the video of me shaking a tambourine in a care home that really got the message across.

I can bring my whole self to work because I have amazing support from my friends and family. I’d especially like to say thank you to David, my husband, ‎who puts up with so much.

So, have a vision; show humility; connect, collaborate and co-produce; be human

And finally, for leaders and everyone in adult social care, be proud

We are not here just to help the NHS survive. We are not second-class citizens. We can transform people’s lives and support them in the most ‎difficult of circumstances. People working in adult social care aren’t low skilled, they are highly skilled and very often amazing. There is always more we can do but we have so much to be proud of.

The last word

I would like to end by thanking everyone I have worked with over the last five years — people using services, their families and carers; people working in, running and commissioning adult social care services; ‎and our national partners. You have challenged me and CQC, supported and encouraged us to raise standards, tackle poor care and celebrate good care.

It has been an honour and a privilege to be the first Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at CQC and I wish you all the very best for the future.

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