It has been an eventful autumn at our Flitwick care home, with its first ever impromptu Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection and the arrival of our new General Manager, Laura Adams. The CQC’s unannounced inspection – resulting in a ‘Good’ rating - took place on 21 September and Laura joined our team on 25 October. A month after Laura took up the position, we caught up with her for a chat.
Tell us a bit about your previous experience, Laura
“My entire career has been in the care sector, in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. When I first left school I worked at Hertfordshire County Council, working alongside social workers and providing support to the elderly in the community; allocating social workers, setting up home care, meals on wheels and so on. Absolutely loved the feeling that I was helping and was fascinated by the people I was providing this help to. I decided I wanted to become more hands-on. I spent a brief period working in home care before getting my first position in a care home. The people were amazing and the setting was lovely.
“I was with that company for 12 or 13 years in total, building my knowledge and experience and working my way up. By the time I left I had been the Registered Manager for two of the company’s care homes. The second of these settings was one which required a real turnaround. It had had an ‘Inadequate’ rating from CQC, an embargo placed by the local authority. I began there in the December and I don’t think I slept for the next 6 months! I worked really hard with the team and we managed to turn the quality of care and management around to get a ‘Good’ rating from CQC – across all five domains - at the reinspection in May. The lack of sleep was worth it!
“I stayed there for about another year and a half. But I’d never worked in a nursing setting - beyond supporting external, visiting nurses and supporting other homes which did have nursing care - so I decided I would leave purely residential care to gain different experience. So, I took a role as a Deputy at a care home with a different company, working alongside someone who had been my Regional Manager at my previous employer.
“After 18 months gaining some really useful experience of managing the nursing care, I really felt the need to get back to full management, so I took up the Registered Home Manager job at another purely residential care home.”
What attracted you to work at Baycroft Flitwick?
“I used to work with Michelle Bladen, my line manager here. We’d always worked really well together and stayed in touch when she moved on. She contacted me to see if I’d be interested in Baycroft Flitwick. If I’m honest, I hadn’t been looking to move from my previous role yet! But I hadn’t previously managed a new build, it’s a beautiful setting, and of course there’s a lot of potential here as we progress.
“I’m really pleased I joined, because it’s a different challenge. I’ve worked in long-established care homes and settings which needed turning around, but here I can help build almost from new. It’s a really lovely team – which makes such a difference. They’re superb and they’re dedicated. It’s a really exciting opportunity.”
What are your plans for Baycroft Flitwick?
“With all care and attention to any Covid-related limitations and safety concerns, I really want to build better links with the local community. We’ve planned some lovely events over the Christmas period; it’s a very nice local town and people have been very enthusiastic about having more involvement.
“Aside from that, there are two areas where I anticipate some change. Ultimately, we’ll become a nursing setting; we have five registered nurses here and all the necessary facilities. I’d just like to get some champions in place for various areas before we start to provide a specialist level of care, making sure our nurses have all the senior support and care support they need.
“The second area of development is around dementia care; creating ideal dementia care environments is something I personally feel very strongly about. I’ve worked with the Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia Friends and I took further training in dementia-related care and awareness and there’s so much scope here. Lots of things we can do with our dementia care unit, new sensory elements inside and in the grounds, extra activities and so on. With people living longer, there’s an increased incidence rate of older people developing dementia; it’s important that we look to enhance quality of life across the home with that in mind. I was a dementia champion way before I reached management level. My nan lived with dementia for many, many years – in a care setting where I worked! It was a rare experience in that I saw that challenge from two important points of view at once: as a relative placing someone living with dementia into care, and at the same time as someone working in that same environment. It’s so rewarding when it’s done right.”
What did you think of the ‘Good’ rating from CQC?
“It’s really encouraging and reassuring. Flitwick was judged as ‘Good’ in four of the five domains, with the only ‘Requires improvement’ coming in the area of management, which was because the registered manager was acting in a regional manager capacity so wasn’t dedicated to Flitwick. Now that I’m here, and will be registered soon, that small issue is immediately addressed.
“It’s also important to note that this is a new service, with Covid hitting the country within 6 months of Flitwick opening, which means the really strong result of ‘Good’ at first inspection gives us a great foundation to build on. We’re actively recruiting for carers and building really good employment rewards programmes to ensure we attract the best. I’m looking forward to growing our team, maintaining the real passion everyone here feels for offering high-quality care, and increasing the number of residents. We’ve got lots of space!”