A Better Way to Recruit Staff in Dorset, South Somerset and Hampshire

Unfilled job vacancies are at unprecedented levels in the UK. According the Office of National Statistics there are 2.9 vacancies for every 100 jobs. The average time taken to fill posts is also growing.

Among the sectors suffering most are hotels, food service businesses and health and social care. Around Dorset, South Somerset and Hampshire we are certainly seeing some of this pressure.

There’s a real challenge for organisations, from hotels and restaurants, to schools, surgeries and care providers to find not just people, but the right people. The question is, where to turn for help?

One option is the recruitment agencies who, to be honest, are struggling just as much as anyone to find good candidates.

Another option is to work with a more specialist expert in this field, that has over 30 years’ experience recruiting its own staff in roles as diverse as chefs, cleaners, handymen, admin, care and nursing. We recently launched Altogether Connect to share our recruitment expertise with other organisations in Dorset, South Somerset and Hampshire, looking specifically for these types of staff that can be especially hard to find as the competition for staff intensifies.

We seem to have an eye for spotting talented people who are ready to build a career with an organisation. We must be doing something right because many of our own staff have been with us for over ten years. The process starts with attracting and identifying the right people in the first place, with the skills, values and behaviours needed to be a productive and valued colleague.

As an employer and a care business, we also have first-hand experience of how to recruit these people and what they are looking for, which gives us a unique insight that other recruiters may lack.

Given our background, we specialise in recruiting care staff, nursing, chefs, handymen, catering staff and cleaners (domestic and commercial). And we help find people to fill these roles in restaurants, hotels, schools, doctors’ surgeries and social care providers. We also help individuals find trusted people to provide these services in their own homes.

So, if finding good quality staff in and around Dorset, Somerset or Hampshire is one of your biggest headaches give Altogether Connect a try. Find out more and enquire here.

It Doesn’t Have to be a Choice Between Independent Living and Residential Care

It used to be assumed that care in later life came down to two choices. On the one hand, you could continue to live independently, with support, in your own home. On the other, you could have residential care, where you are effectively looked after.

In fact, choice probably isn’t the right word. The assumption was that residential care was where you went when you could no longer manage to live independently in your own home.

Retirement living and later life care is much more complex than a simple either/or choice between care at home or residential care. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. We are talking about individuals rather than stereotypes. And individuals have their own views on what they want and what should be on offer.

What People Want from Their Care

Steepleton Manor is a reflection of how many older people would choose to live their lives. They want a high standard of accommodation with a touch of luxury. Many want to get on with the things they enjoy doing without the bother of running their own home. They want to live in pleasant surroundings and an attractive environment. And most want the freedom to live as independently as possible.

Naturally, the need for care, help with tasks like washing, dressing or medication is a feature of later life for many. The residential setting means that the care they need is on hand and can easily be adapted as their needs change, which is highly reassuring.

Sometimes the best therapy of all in later life is the company, companionship and active lifestyle that comes with high-quality assisted living. If you’d like to see what this looks like in reality we’d be happy to show you around Steepleton Manor and our other care homes.

It Isn’t All Doom and Gloom in the Care Home Sector

Anyone who reads a newspaper or looks at a news website will know that the care sector faces problems. People are living longer and developing more complex care needs, while the funding for care services fails to keep pace with demand for services.

Most local authorities want to spend more on care but simply don’t have the cash to fund much beyond the most acute needs.

Care Homes Closing

According to the Health Foundation, funding for adult social care fell by 21% between 2009/10 and 2015/16 – at the same time as demand for services was increasing. A consequence of these pressures is that care homes are closing across the country because they simply can’t make the numbers add up. Altogether Care is just one of four remaining nursing care home providers in Weymouth, for example.

Demand Increasing

While over £7bn has been cut from social care budgets since 2010, we know that more people are needing elderly care services. The strain placed on informal networks of carers and family members is considerable.

The net effect is less choice. The business failures are affecting both smaller, independent care homes, rooted in their communities and the larger corporate organisations (sometimes owned by institutional investors), making it harder for people to know which homes are likely to be around into the future.

Bucking the Trend

But, like we said, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Altogether Care is finding a way to thrive in this environment. We put this down to our foundations as a local family-run organisation and the reputation we have worked hard to earn for delivering high-quality care for over 30 years.

We are not only surviving but investing and developing. We have planning permission recently granted for extending the number of rooms available at our Weymouth home and have recently refurbished the top floor at our luxury Grade II listed assisted living care home Steepleton Manor. This floor now offers a range of premium rooms and suites, some with kitchenette and en-suite facilities.

We have also recently opened a new Care at Home office in Southampton, and our new office in Salisbury is due to open February 2019 to extend our area of operation and support for local people.

The future for the care sector will remain challenging until there is a sustainable solution to the funding questions. In the meantime, there are still caring community-focused organisations that are able to build on their strengths and meet the needs of older people. Why not come and see for yourself what life with Altogether Care is really like? To arrange a visit, contact us today on 01305 206 140.

Supported Living: Why Care at Home isn’t just About Care

A lot of people still have an inaccurate picture of what care at home and supported living mean for many elderly people. While some elderly care does involve nursing support for complex health needs, in many cases help is needed for everyday tasks that people find difficult.

Some people choose care at home simply to have more time to do what they want rather than chores such as cleaning and shopping. They find that care at home leaves more time for doing what they want to do and takes away the worry of doing chores they find laborious or difficult.

Care at Home or supported living can also help people get out of the home more regularly, with assisted shopping trips or help to travel to and from social activities.

Companionship and Elderly Care

Another major benefit of supported living care is companionship. One reason many choose care at home, apart from keeping the familiarity of their own surroundings, is the flexibility. It can be easier for relatives and friends to fit visits around their lives without having fixed times or routines. At times, such as family holidays, when family visits aren’t possible there’s the reassurance that there will be a friendly and familiar face each day.

Family visits can also be richer when the basic chores have been taken care of and there’s more time to sit and talk. And for people without family living nearby, regular visits from their home care team can be a particularly welcome way to break up the day.

In many cases it may be more accurate to talk about elderly support rather than elderly care. The need isn’t for medical care but for a little help with some basic household tasks to make life easier and more enjoyable.

If you or an elderly relative are starting to find basic household tasks a bit challenging, a care at home service might be just what’s needed to brighten life up. Contact us today on 01305 300161 to find out more or click here.

What Does a CQC Inspection Rating Really Mean?

Relax – this isn’t going to be a detailed explanation of how the Care Quality Commission conducts inspections or formulates a rating for a particular care provider. This is intended to be an overview that will help you put ratings into context. The best advice if you want to know about a particular care provider is often to go and look for yourself.

Inspections seek to answer five key questions:

  • Is the service safe?
  • Is it effective?
  • Is it caring?
  • Is it responsive to service user needs?
  • Is it well-led?

Each of these questions is rated according to a four-point scale: Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement, Inadequate. There is no category for ‘satisfactory.’

The ratings for each of these questions are then aggregated to form an overall rating. Each question has an equal weighting. So, for example, a provider rated Good in four categories and Requires Improvement in one will normally have an overall rating of Good.

However, there are a few complications. For example, no provider can be rated better than Requires Improvement if there has been a breach of the regulations. It may also be worth bearing in mind that inspection findings are based to a large extent on the presentation of evidence, rather than direct observation of the care service users receive.

What Does ‘Good’ Mean?

The overall rating will normally be Good if there are no key question ratings of Inadequate and no more than one key question rating of Requires Improvement. There are actually many combinations that could result in an overall rating of Good, so it might help to look at the rating and judgement for each question individually. If the ratings for safe, effective and caring are all good this may cover your main concerns.

An overall rating of Requires Improvement may also need interpretation. There may well be three aspects of the service that are rated good and two that require improvement. The service could be safe, effective and caring but was unable to show inspectors sufficient evidence that it should be rated Good for being well led or responsive.

Likewise, if two or more of the key questions are rated as inadequate, then the overall rating will normally be Inadequate, even if some aspects of the service are good.

At the other end of the scale, an overall rating of Outstanding doesn’t mean that a provider is outstanding in all areas. It can be outstanding in two areas and good in three. So, a provider rated outstanding for being caring may have a lower overall rating than one that is rated as good for the same question (we did say it wasn’t straightforward). Choosing a care home or home care provider is a big decision. There are many factors to consider and the CQC rating is useful guidance. But it often helps to dig a bit deeper to see the real story behind the rating.

You can find more about our Care Homes and Care at Home service ratings here.

Altogether Care and Wiltshire Farm Foods Spread Some Seasonal Cheer

As a family-run care business for over 30 years, you really get to know the communities you serve. Which means, when it comes to Christmas, we are only too aware that many older people could be faced with a very lonely prospect. For many, Christmas is a time when they see no one and feel very much alone.

According to Age UK, over 870,000 people over 65 won’t see or hear from anybody for days over the festive period. Many will feel lonelier than at any other time of the year. Not exactly the Christmas spirit.

Determined to make sure that old people in our community who live on their own see at least one smiling face on Christmas Day, Altogether Care has, once again, partnered with Wiltshire Farm Foods. Working together, we will provide free Christmas dinners to elderly people across Dorset and South Somerset.

This year our team will be distributing meals on Christmas Day, kindly donated by Wiltshire Farm Foods. Just as important as the meals, our care staff will spend time with each person to enjoy a mince pie, pull a cracker and spread a little Christmas cheer.

Some of the people who will benefit are our Care at Home clients who have no friends or family to visit on the day. We are also teaming up with Age UK to identify other people in the Dorset and South Somerset area who would appreciate a bit of company and a tasty festive meal.

We are, as ever, incredibly grateful to Wiltshire Farm Foods for their generosity. And to our dedicated team who give up their time because they know that, at Christmas, older people on their own probably need us more than ever.

Care is much more than a business for us. We see our role as supporting vulnerable people in a community that we are part of, at Christmas and all year round. For more information, please call 01305 766 099 and ask for Dawn or Rachel.

Coffee Morning is Success

Residents and staff at Steepleton Manor raised £65.55 by hosting a Macmillan coffee morning back in September.

The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is a yearly fundraising event hosted by Macmillan Cancer Support and provides vital donations for Macmillan to provide ongoing support for those with cancer and their families.

Local residents from the village attended and enjoyed chatting to the residents whilst enjoying a slice of cake – or two!

What do CQC Inspection Reports Really Tell You?

First of all, Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections are a good thing. It is important that there is accountability so that people placing their trust in care services can have confidence that the system is properly regulated.

Accountability also helps providers with common performance benchmarks and guidance on where we can improve.

To make best use of CQC inspection reports when choosing a care home or home care provider, it can help to understand a bit of background and context. Inspectors report on whether services are safe, effective, caring, responsive and well led. There are four possible ratings: Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Inadequate. There is no category for ‘satisfactory.’

Some of the inspection rating is based on documentation such as procedures and record keeping and some of it is essentially a snapshot of what inspectors saw and who they spoke to. So, there could be some subjectivity in the findings- there’s also potentially some randomness based on exactly when the inspection happened.

There’s no doubt too, that some providers are better at the process of preparing for inspections than others. Although you could argue that this is what you’d expect from a well-managed organisation.

What do Ratings Mean?

Don’t dismiss homes simply if they are not Outstanding or Good. Care providers, and more importantly, care users are highly individual and other factors should also be considered.

For example, a home with a lower rating may be a better choice for an individual if the location makes it easier for relatives to visit and for the resident to maintain links with the community they come from. It may be that the facilities and activities on offer are more in line with what a particular person wants.

Similarly, you shouldn’t necessarily be put off a care home because its CQC rating at its last inspection was ‘Requires Improvement.’ There may not be that much practical difference between a provider that just got over the threshold to be rated ‘Good’ and one that didn’t quite make it.

If a home or provider is said to require improvement, it’s important to understand what this means. It could be that they provide essentially safe and effective care but need to tighten up some of their management processes. Even a provider with an ‘Inadequate’ rating shouldn’t be discounted out of hand if the management is taking urgent and purposeful action to correct the shortcomings found in the inspection.

The best way to identify the most suitable care home is to arrange a visit during a normal day to see for yourself whether residents look happy and well cared for. By all means, take along a copy of the most recent inspection report and talk through any concerns with the manager. More importantly, go with an open mind and ask: ‘is this a place where I or my loved one could live the life they want to live. To arrange a visit at any of our ‘Good’ care homes, contact us today on 01305 300 161.

Employee of the Month – July

We are delighted to reveal our Employees of the Month for July for each of our care homes. Each month, care home managers at Sherborne House, Steepleton Manor and Weymouth Care Home will hand pick team members who demonstrate a passion for their role and go above and beyond to provide excellent standard of care and support to residents.

Our Employees of the Month for July are:

Sherborne House

Dean Greenslade

Dean is always willing to help whenever he can and demonstrates efficiency at work.  He is a valuable asset to Sherborne House.

Weymouth Care Home

Alan Stevens

Alan has been nominated for his cheery disposition, winning smile and for how attentive he is to the resident’s needs, providing mouth-watering, nutritious meals.

Steepleton Manor

Deborah Stanford

Apart from being a good carer, Debbie is kind-hearted, considerate and cheerful. She brightens a room when she walks in with her sunny smile and cheerful greetings. She is reliable with great time keeping skills and a great asset to the team.

Congratulations to all Employees of the Month!

What is Quality of Life in a Care Home Really Like?

Although people’s understanding is improving, there are still some lingering myths about life in a care home. There used to be a view that a care home was simply an option when you couldn’t cope with living on your own any more.

Step inside one of our care homes and you will see a different reality. Here you will find people who are getting on with life full of activities, rather than sitting around rather than sitting around a badly tuned television.

People Need People

For old people living alone, loneliness and isolation are often major issues. The effect this has on emotional wellbeing has huge knock on effects for mental and physical health. Companionship and social interactions are the most obvious benefits of residential care.

Not having the burden of running your own home leaves more time to do things you enjoy. In many ways it is swapping a struggle to get by with more time and opportunity for greater enjoyment and fulfillment.

Help and Support

Good care homes are set up to help residents enjoy the best possible quality of life. There is a support structure in place to promote physical and mental wellbeing through fun activities, and well thought out varied nutrition and appropriate therapies. But there’s no doubt that being part of a community with friends and support always on hand is the foundation for an enjoyable later life.

There’s also the reassurance that experienced care staff are at hand, not just to deal with immediate care needs, medication and so on, but also to keep an eye on overall health and wellbeing. It’s more likely that any health issues are picked up sooner so care plans can quickly adapt to any changing needs.

If you are interested in reality rather than myths, the best option is to arrange a visit to Sherborne House, Steepleton Manor, or Weymouth Care Home to see for yourself.

Employee of the Month – June

We are delighted to reveal our Employees of the Month for June for each of our care homes. Each month, care home managers at Sherborne House, Steepleton Manor and Weymouth Care Home will hand pick team members who demonstrate a passion for their role and go above and beyond to provide excellent standard of care and support to residents.

Our Employees of the Month for June are:

Sherborne House

Cosma Abreu

Cosma has the warmest smile and most infectious laugh which makes the residents laugh when passing her.  Cosma works between laundry and cleaning but always puts a smile on the face of residents.

Weymouth Care Home

Nicola Fahay

Nicola’s helpful and cheery disposition and ability to adapt to the ever changing needs of the home makes her a superstar among her team.

Steepleton Manor

Emma Southam

Emma is an absolute joy to work with. She is friendly, helpful and always willing to help when needed. Her years of care experience adds an extra boost to the team and we feel lucky to have Emma.

Congratulations to all Employees of the Month!

A Smoother & Faster Reablement Pathway from Hospital to Home

‘Bed blocking’ in NHS hospitals is a major problem. According to NHS England around 5900 beds are occupied by older people who are medically fit for discharge. They remain in hospital because they don’t have a suitable package of care in place to allow them to return home. That adds up to over 170,000 days of delays for people with a medical need for those beds.

And for too many older people the next stage after a stay in hospital is long term residential or nursing care. This isn’t always what they want and may not be their best long-term option. Happily, it now isn’t inevitable.

Often, what is needed is an interim phase of assessment, support and therapy as a stepping stone between hospital and home. Working with Yeovil Hospital Trust, Altogether Care has been chosen to introduce a new Home First approach at Sherborne House.

Home First is a support and reablement programme involving the NHS, local authority and the voluntary sector. It offers short term reablement support, either at home or in a care home setting. The aim is to help older people recovering from an operation or health trauma to regain the mobility and capability to live more independently.

In late 2017 we opened a 10 bed Home First unit at Sherborne House. It offers ‘Pathway 3’ support (the highest level of Home First support) for up to 28 days.

During their stay the temporary residents receive intensive support from a multi-disciplinary team involving physiotherapists, occupational therapists and other specialists to aid their recovery as they progress to the next stage of their care.

Residents are fully involved in planning the reablement support and in deciding their preferred destination at the end of their stay.

A Success Story

Since the unit opened we have helped 60 people. We are proud and delighted that 33 of these have fulfilled their wish to return home, with whatever ongoing support they need.

“Home First is about giving people options,” says Caroline Sharp, manager at Sherborne House. “Without the reablement support we are able to offer most, if not all, of these people would have gone straight to residential care or remained in hospital using a bed that is badly needed. They may have been stuck in hospital because they were not immediately able to look after themselves at home.”

Home First helps to speed up the discharge from hospital for many patients. This is vitally important because the longer older people spend in a hospital, the more likely it becomes that long term residential or nursing care becomes the only viable option.

“Feedback from our NHS partners, residents and families has been overwhelmingly positive. For everyone at Sherborne House it’s incredibly motivating to be making such a to the quality of life in people’s later years” added Caroline.

Further feedback from Somerset County Council has also proven that the programme has been a great success, as the results of this Home First trial were recently presented to the council’s health and wellbeing board by the strategic manager for adult social care, Tim Baverstock. Tim says that as a direct result of the programme, current residents have become more active. He adds “without getting these people out of hospital, the system in Somerset may have broken”.

For more information on the Home First programme at Sherborne House, please contact us.

Women needed for football team

Verwood Ladies Football Team have suffered a difficult season due to players taking maternity leave and suffering injuries and are now looking for new players to join their team of 22 players.

Karla Jordan, a player in the team, said: “We have experienced a difficult season for lots of reasons including losing some good players due to maternity leave and injury.  Women’s football is sometimes tricky as players have to juggle managing their families with career pressures.  We would welcome interest from new players.

We are extremely grateful to Altogether Care for sponsoring our home kit and we have also received great support also from Minster Partnership for our away kit”.

The team has a new assistant manager, Sally Chalk and hopes to attract new players who will assist the team in their mission to win more games and promote women’s football within the community.

Anyone interested in joining should email vtlfc@outlook.com

Why Retirement May not be the Time to Put your Feet Up

There is very clear evidence that staying active in older life has enormous benefits for overall health. There are strong links between physical activity and mental and emotional wellbeing.

According to the World Health Organisation, by being more physically active, older people can expect:

  • Lower rates of mortality, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer.
  • Better bone health.
  • Higher levels of functional health, a lower risk of falling, and better cognitive function.

WHO also reports that physically active older people have ‘reduced risk of moderate and severe functional limitations and role limitations.’ In other words, they are able to cope better and do more.

An Individual Approach

Naturally, the level and nature of physical activity that older people are able to undertake will be different from when they were younger. It’s important for care providers to work closely with health professionals such as physiotherapists to design appropriate activity programmes based on individual needs and levels of mobility.

Dancing, gardening, walking, light aerobics, stretching and yoga can all be highly beneficial. As well as exercising hearts and lungs these activities help to keep joints mobile.

Normally, it’s best to encourage people to do as much as they feel able to take on. For residents who have become accustomed to low levels of physical activity – a programme that gradually increases activity levels can be transformational for their general wellbeing.

Where people receive care at home, awareness of their activity levels and, where appropriate, help and encouragement to join in with community based activity and exercise programmes should be a feature of good care planning.

Physical exercise also promotes independence and social enhancement these are very important for older people in tackling any feelings of loneliness and isolation. An active body and mind alongside a healthy and positive emotional outlook makes a huge difference to your life and those golden years, which is hopefully what everyone should look forward to.

Seven Pups Steal Hearts at Care Home

Seven eight week old Terrier Cross Puppies have stolen the hearts of residents at Sherborne House Care Home in Yeovil.  Amy Trowbridge-smith, who works at the care home owns the seven puppies and was having difficulty deciding on names so she took them to meet the residents who suggested suitable names for them after a play session with the three boys and four girls.

Treacle, Sky, Bella, Marley, Patch Nunock and Magic have all found loving homes and enjoyed their visit to meet the residents for a play session.

The puppies were an ideal tonic for the residents who always enjoy meeting animals, birds and any other friendly guests that visit.

Employees of the Month – September

We are delighted to share September’s Employees of the Month for our care homes. Each month, care home managers at Sherborne House, Steepleton Manor and Weymouth Care Home will hand pick team members who demonstrate a passion for their role and go above and beyond to provide excellent standard of care and support to residents.

Our Employees of the Month for September are:

Steepleton Manor

Kate Mauger

Kate is Steepleton Manor’s Employee of the Month. Kate has worked hard throughout the month and everyone at the home can always depend on her. Kate is an efficient, punctual staff member who has great attention to detail and always has time in her day to chat to the residents.

Sherborne House

Natasha Curr

Natasha has been nominated as Sherborne House’s Employee of the Month. Natasha always has a smile on her face, and nothing is ever a bother.  Our residents have nothing but praise for how amazing she is.

Weymouth Care Home 


Employee of the Month for Weymouth Care Home, Jackie has managed exceptionally well in the absence of her colleague. Jackie keeps the home’s domestic team organised and Weymouth Care Home clean and tidy.

Congratulations to all of our Employees of the Month!

Why Care at Home Deserves Appreciation and Nurturing

Home care services seem to be continuously in the news. Mostly the coverage focuses on the struggle the sector is having to secure a sustainable future. But away from the headlines it’s clear that there is a continuing and growing need for home care services.

Some care homes are closing, social care budgets are tightening, and some service users are choosing to spend personal care budgets to help them continue living in their own homes. All of these factors, alongside the target to speed up the transfer of care from hospitals to care services, drive an increasing need for care at home.

It isn’t just the ageing population and the projected growth of conditions like Alzheimer’s that affect people’s ability to live completely independently. Many other people find that they need help to live independently in their own homes either in the form of care visits or live in care.

Care at home delivers vital support to people with mental health issues, physical disabilities and learning difficulties. The range of support offered is far wider than many people imagine, spanning everything from temporary re-ablement care for people recovering from serious medical conditions, to long term high dependency care.

The scope of the service is extremely broad and could include practical support to live independently as part of a community, help with personal care, dementia care and end of life care.

Care at home plays a vital role, not just in the context of social care but within the social fabric of the country. And it could do much more given the right support and funding. It’s time that role was more widely recognised and appreciated.

In some circumstances, home care can be more cost effective and better for the emotional wellbeing of service users than residential care, particularly when they are part of a supportive community of carers and neighbours. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where care at home doesn’t play an increasingly significant role in supporting people with additional needs at any stage of life.

It isn’t the best option for everyone but we believe strongly that it should be the needs and circumstances of each individual that determines the care they receive, rather than what is available or less expensive.

If you are currently considering the care options for your loved one and would like to discuss what would best suit their needs, contact Altogether Care. Our diverse range of care options can be tailor made to suit your individual needs, from care at home and live-in care to high end residential homes and specialist dementia care homes. Our experienced and caring team are here to help you, call 01305 300 161 or visit our website for more information.

Some recent day to day activities