Derbyshire County Council commissioned Healthwatch Derbyshire to visit all of the Care Homes that the council managed and to report back on what it found. At the council’s request, these visits were unannounced.
As a result of this work, the council has been able to respond positively to suggestions; for example, improving signage, offering therapeutic activities and providing hearing loops for residents.
17 Healthwatch volunteers, including two volunteers with learning disabilities, have visited the homes and found a range of issues. For example, they have identified variations in the standards of garden maintenance across the homes. The council has assured Healthwatch Derbyshire that there would be an improved garden maintenance contract and consideration given to the appointment of a handy-person for all establishments.
When Healthwatch Derbyshire’s volunteers visited the homes again, they found that although there has been some improvement, some services were still struggling to maintain their gardens adequately. Healthwatch Derbyshire continues to address this in its regular meetings with the county council.
This work relies on a pool of skilled volunteers. Healthwatch Derbyshire recognised the importance of making sure that these volunteers had the right skills to carry out visits and make appropriate recommendations.
It has put in place several activities to support its volunteers. As well as training, these include meetings which provide a chance for volunteers to socialise, discuss how things are going now and in the future and listen to guest speakers, as well as celebrate their contributions.
Healthwatch Derbyshire also set up a Quality Improvement to involve volunteers in finding new ways to improve how visits to services are carried out, which has already resulted in a more streamlined process for visits.
As the project has been so successful, the council has commissioned Healthwatch Derbyshire to continue visiting care homes to monitor recommendations that were identified in the first year, but also highlight any further issues.