The Care Home Open Day is now in its third year and we have received a really good groundswell of support from the care sector. The rationale behind the day, is to make sure that care services are seen to be at the centre of their local communities and discussions about the benefits of the day, have quite rightly, tended to focus on the benefits to residents, their families and staff.
There is however, a clear business reason to engage in this initiative and I think there are some important benefits that can be seen in relation to the business case.
One of the most important things about the open day is it gives you a really good opportunity to showcase your services and to identify the differentiators between your care and other competitors in the market. There is an opportunity for people in your locality to come to your services and to get to know what is available. This is particularly important in the care home sector, where our markets are traditionally local and the engagement with local people will ultimately translate into higher occupancy levels, as people begin to see what your services can deliver and they then identify how your services could support their relatives, or friends.
There are also great publicity opportunities associated with Care Home Open Day. The event gives you a reason to invite key stakeholders into your service, and their attendance will also spark interest from the local media. As every care home operator knows, it is sometimes difficult and expensive to get exposure in your local press. The fact that it is a UK-wide event, which is receiving so much support from the top of Government, makes it instantly newsworthy and if you have a celebrity or dignitary attending your open day, this is a golden opportunity for the local press to feature your care services.
There is no better advert for your care services than the people who currently live in them and their families. All too often, we struggle to find opportunities for residents and their relatives to give a view on the impact the care services have on their lives. The positive nature of Care Home Open Day enables you to begin a conversation with your service users and their families, and get their voices heard by the wider community. There is nothing that the media likes better than a human interest story and care homes are full of such stories and Care Home Open Day is a reason to champion them and get them to a wider audience.
The local print media is a very good source of publicity, but we should not forget the important role the local radio plays in getting messages across to communities. It is my view that engaging with your local radio station could be another important way of raising your profile and getting your services better understood and used by local people.
Engage with CQC
The regulator has now started to differentiate services with their quality ratings, and one of the definers of excellence will be how much engagement there is between care services and the local community. Being involved in Care Home Open Day really shows commitment to community engagement and you can also use the day as an opportunity to talk to your residents and families and to get feedback on the current view of your services and new ideas for improvement and development. Some businesses spend a lot of money trying to initiate responses from the general public and here is a way that you can do exactly that, but in a very cost-effective manner.
The involvement of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in the open day is also an opportunity for you to gain better understanding and stronger relationships with your regulatory body. Of course, the CQC will make judgements about your service, but the more that inspectors understand about the sector and what it achieves, the deeper their knowledge will be, and this can only translate into better quality relationships between provider and regulator.
Recruitment and retention
Recruitment and retention of staff is one of the major challenges for care providers and the open day can also give you an opportunity to encourage people who may be considering working in the sector to come into your services and find out more about what the job involves. Care homes need to have a local workforce because they require people to be available for different shifts and be flexible about how they work. Reducing travel times by developing a locally skilled and trained workforce, is one way in which care homes can achieve the goal of a more stable workforce. Also, the goodwill and enthusiasm for the open day can motivate existing staff, rejuvenating them with ideas and the opportunity to get involved in something different.
The care home sector is little understood by the general public and this has led to quite a lot of negativity. I hope that in developing Care Home Open Day, we have given care providers an opportunity to be proactive and to face the public on the front foot, extolling the virtues of our services, the commitment of our staff, and the outcomes to our residents and their families.
The contribution care makes is vital to the individuals who receive it, but it is also vital to the UK economy, both because care is a large employer, which enables people to have resources and to spend money in their local communities, and because we contribute to the reduction in stress and absenteeism of relatives. Families and friends are able to be much more productive when they know that the people they love are being cared for and supported.
More than just an open day
The Care Home Open Day is so much more than just opening care homes to the public, in doing so, it is also a mechanism to redefine peoples’ views of the care sector, and to enable people to understand that we are part of a vital and much-needed public resource.
Professor Martin Green OBE is Chief Executive of Care England. www.nationalcarehomeopenday.org.uk
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