Responding to Covid-19: what challenges are health and care leaders facing?

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Leading through Covid-19

Since we launched our ‘Leading through Covid-19’ webpages, we’ve been asking visitors to the site to tell us about their experiences during this crisis. We wanted to hear from those in the health and social care system who are managing in unprecedented circumstances and having to rapidly work in new ways. We asked people to tell us about the challenges they are facing and the support that they would find most useful.

To date, more than 500 of you have responded to us from across England, the United Kingdom and even further afield. This includes those working in NHS provider organisations, local authorities, social care services, voluntary sector organisations and many others. We are grateful to all of you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

Your responses have included several familiar issues, for example access to personal protective equipment (PPE). Some of you have described feeling isolated, either personally or in the sense of not knowing what is happening beyond your own organisation or system. But there are some strong common themes among the challenges we have heard: you are not alone.

  • Coping with anxiety in the context of uncertainty and rapid change has been a central concern. Anxieties about health and keeping staff and people using services safe are common. Many of you have told us about how you are struggling to protect your team’s mental and physical wellbeing, as well as looking after your own.
  • Keeping pace with the amount of new information about the crisis is another recurring theme. Lots of you have told us about the challenges of prioritising this and communicating relevant details across teams, while paying attention to the anxiety it could raise. For some of you the volume of information adds to what is already an overwhelming workload.
  • Adapting to the broad-ranging changes to ways of working, from remote working and consultations to changing substantive roles to respond to need. These changes bring emotional as well as practical challenges – concerns about impacts on patients and service users as well as how to rapidly upskill new staff and form new teams.

We have used your responses to shape the resources we are developing for Leading through Covid-19. For example, we have shared insights on how to engage with and manage anxiety about loss and breathing . Our short piece on how to manage your energy as a leader is intended to help you and your colleagues to focus your priorities and find a sustainable way of working through the crisis and beyond. We have also responded to the challenges around new ways of working and provided a guide to virtual meetings, as well as a three-minute read on what research tells us about how to effectively work with new teams on unprecedented challenges. We do not underestimate the pressures of the environment you are working in, but hope that these resources will be of some use to you in addressing the challenges you are facing.

The response to this crisis requires working together and learning from each other’s experiences, and we are grateful to everyone who has contributed to the site so far – either by sharing their experiences through the web form, or by contributing content. If you or your colleagues have any feedback on what has been helpful (or not), and what else we could be doing to support you, please let us know – we’d love to hear from you

Leading through Covid-19

An online resource hub of quick-read practical guides and videos to provide support to leaders across health and care.

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Jane Farquharson

Cliff House Community Support Services
Comment date
18 May 2020

"Nothing about us without us" should be the case as so correct.. it seems decision makers know nothing about face to face care and support in dom care either ...we are a small charity running as a social enterprise but keeping very frail people mainly with cognitive issues, out of hospital by prompting meds and ensuring adequate hydration and nutrition both shopping for them and prepping meals. Important you would think in these pressured times with protecting hospital bedspace etc ? Got tight infection control policies and staff who adhere to it BUT no PPE in sight since the start. No contact from local council or CCG ( with CCG we've got a small contract with them) to see if we needed any help with contact at all. We have made our own masks which we boil up. When we run out of gloves staff will wear washing up gloves and wash hands (with the gloves still on ) between clients. Innovation of our own BUT where is the PRACTICAL help/support FORGET ZOOM and endless meaningless meetings that do not help a single vulnerable and very frail older person in the community..

George Coxon

Care home owner / activist,
Classic care homes
Comment date
13 May 2020

There are many in addition to those listed

My 2 Small non nursing homes are still virus free Key points for us include how we maintain a heightened state of readiness with hypervigilance without complacency. It’s like being on starting blocks waiting for the gun poised to kick into action but held for several minutes rather than a few seconds
Maintaining normal services - keeping spirits up, ensuring stress levels amongst staff & the common minor fall outs as are common in ‘family life’ in care homes between staff don’t escalate due to the external pressures & life restrictions being imposed & required Staff are aware of the huge risk they pose to residents at work and are exposed to in outside life
Leadership requires role modelling, having wisdom, calm, clear, open cultures, tolerance & forgiveness whilst maintaining standards & setting boundaries to enable clarity & containment of stress levels.
Reinforcing safe care & essential (often ever changing) advice, evidence & updates creates challenge to coordinated working & consistent belief in our ethos & day to day work Providing reassurance is vital of course too

Overseeing how we maintain our core values too whilst making sure we have enough PPE !
Too many people suddenly having lots of advice ‘support’ and training to offer us via copious webinars, Zoom & MS Teams meetings also feels overwhelming, frustrating & patronising in many ways offered by people who either have no real time experiences of care home life or have an unrealistic impression or expectation of what is possible or appropriate Leading for care homes must come from within in respectful empowering partnerships. Reciprocal leadership based on a shared view of need and acknowledgment that risk share, trust & best interest must be central

Finally to say as a prominent care home voice seeking to emphasise the need to promote the ongoing positive lives of the great majority of care home residents, staff & owners We say ‘ nothing about us without us’ Leading with our work with others must adhere to this

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