BLOG: Agency’s six steps to end of life care excellence

SIX STEPS CARE HOMEAgency’s six steps to end of life care excellence

The very first nursing and care agency in Plymouth to boast St Luke’s end of life training verification is delighted that its high standards and good practice have been recognised and verified for the 12th year running.

St Luke’s has long been committed to helping the wider caring community to deliver the very best care for people who are approaching death, through its dedicated Six Steps+ education programme.

There’s a growing band of great nursing and care homes in and around Plymouth that have invested in the specialist training initiative. However, the highly respected Prestige Nursing & Care – a Domiciliary Care and temporary staffing provider – with clients across Devon and Cornwall is the only agency that has proudly renewed its Six Steps+ accreditation, year after year.

With three in-house certificated St Luke’s End of Life Champions to spread their specialist knowledge and skills to all their staff, Prestige has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to make a real difference to clients at such an important time in their lives.

Their care teams are experienced at looking after the dying in their own homes, during the day and overnight, working alongside St Luke’s specialist teams when expert input is needed. The agency, rated “Outstanding” by the CQC, also supplies staff for nursing and care homes, and occasionally provides temporary cover for St Luke’s specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Manager Emma Bonney, who spearheaded the agency’s ongoing connection with St Luke’s, says their Six Steps+ training by St Luke’s End of Life Educators, has been a game changer, giving her staff the confidence, not only to give a better standard care, but to champion their clients.

“We were having more and more clients at the end of life in the community and my main motivation was to improve our services and support those people more effectively,” she said. “Liz Lawley and the St Luke’s education team have empowered us to challenge things when it’s in the best interest of the patient – we have the knowledge to do that now.

“It’s great that we know what to do to look after people at the end of life appropriately. Families don’t know what to expect because they can’t tell what is normal, but our health care assistants can calmly explain things and take away some of their worry.”

A recent example was a woman who was trying to look after her elderly, terminally ill mother at home but found it overwhelming when she deteriorated steeply and was in a lot of pain and distress.

“The daughter just couldn’t cope and thought she would have to put her mother in residential care. Because of our specialist knowledge, we were able to go in and help to keep the lady calm and comfortable so that she could stay at home.

“Stories like that are why we do the Six Steps+ training, to provide really high quality care that allows people to stay at home at the end of their lives,” said Emma.

The programme’s standards also emphasise the importance of Advance Care Plans and documenting people’s wishes in terms of their future care.

“Advance care planning is a big benefit. We looked after a lady who had early onset Alzheimer’s and she could see where the disease was going to take her. We helped her to make a plan while she still had capacity. She wanted to be care for in her own home and was very concerned about being patronised. This was documented as part of her Advanced Care Plan and she remained at home until she died, in her preferred place of care”.

Another of Prestige’s top priorities is providing continuity of care for people in their own homes.

“When we consider a package of care, we always look to assign a set team to ensure we can cover it fully and safely. We try to minimise the number of people as much as we can so that the client has a consistent team who know them well. This in turn gives the client a more effective service as the staff are able to respond promptly to any changes in their condition and wellbeing.”

Emma and her fellow Prestige End of Life Champions, Jane Lys and Clare Waterfield, are all involved in training the Prestige staff. As part of the Six Steps+ programme, they undertake refresher courses with the St Luke’s Education Team and attend the regular End of Life forums that bring together other local champions to discuss common issues and expand knowledge with guest speakers.

“The programme is ongoing. Every year we re-verify. At that point we have to provide evidence that we are still providing high quality end of life care, showing examples of how we put the Six Steps+ into practice.”

What is the Six Steps+ programme?