Speaker profile: Paul Gaskell


Taken from The Care Social e-magazine

Tell us a bit about your current job role

My current position as Director of Dementia Services began in June 2014 when I was asked by Gordon Sanders, CEO of Runwood Homes, to design and launch a dementia support service.  The brief?  To improve the lives of people living with dementia. Four years later, I now head a talented and committed team of seven Dementia Service Managers, who personally support up to eleven homes each.  Every home has a direct link to our team, and our role is very much hands-on (training, coaching and guiding).  My job is very varied: I develop and introduce guidance, policies and initiatives to improve quality of life for all residents; I visit homes to support my team, and meet residents and staff; I work closely with staff teams myself to better understand their challenges, and listen to their ideas.  

Tell us about your background/why you chose to work at Runwood Homes?

I began my career as a mental health nurse in 1984, and have worked in nursing and social care ever since.  Since then, I have enjoyed a variety of nursing and management roles in support of young people, adults and older people in different settings. These include residential care for young people with sensory impairment, residential care for adults with a learning disability, nursing of older people with dementia and residential care for older people. I have experience of employment within a variety of different sectors: the National Health Service, charitable organisations, private sector and Local Authority. I believe this range of experience has given me the ability to bring about meaningful and sustained improvements for our residents. 

Tell us about your current focuses and strategies for ensuring high quality care for Runwood Homes

The work of our Dementia Services Team is primarily to improve the lives of people with dementia.  However, as soon as the team was formed it became evident that every resident, family member and member of staff were key stakeholders; all initiatives benefitted everyone, not just people with dementia. To achieve our vision – People with dementia can live well with the right support – we need to support and involve all of these stakeholders, and develop all aspects of life which contribute to wellbeing.   Our dementia service focusses on staff training and coaching, family support and dementia confidence, activity and occupation, mealtimes as highlight of the day, environments which are meaningful, personalised and informative, dignity for everyone every day, community links and friendship-based care.

How are you ensuring that growth objectives for Runwood Homes are being met?

The company was formed in 1998 with 10 homes.  Following a restructure taking numbers down to 1 home in 1998 and back up to 8 homes by 1999, Runwood have been steadily expanding the portfolio, year on year.  Runwood Homes has currently 69 homes and 6 day centres.  This steady expansion continues.  There are 2 ways in which new homes are added: transfer of existing local authority stock, and building new homes where there is a need in that community. 

Out recent new build, our 73 room Chelmunds Court in North Solihull opened in November 2017, in partnership with Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council.  We are just completing another new home, our rebuilt home, Four Acres, in Studley Warwickshire, due to open in December. 

All new developments are carefully considered, and based on keenly seeking out just the right new opportunities.  We learn from each new home we build, and use current thinking and best practice to guide us to create environments which are comfortable, homely and shaped around the needs of people who live and work in them.   We work closely with local neighbourhoods, building links and forging positive relationships.

How would you describe a ‘sustainable social care model’ and how are you helping to achieve this?

Social care is influenced by the social, economic and environmental challenges of our time. We have an ageing and diverse population, and are seeing increases in health inequalities and issues such as obesity, mental ill health, alcohol misuse, chronic illnesses and complex conditions such as dementia. The most vulnerable people are the most affected. If we are to respond to these challenges we must recognise and address these social, economic and environmental factors simultaneously. This will help make people, communities and services more resilient, and improve health and wellbeing for all.  

We need to be connected, sustainable and resilient to many pressures and challenges. To achieve this Runwood Homes work closely in partnership with our communities, linked health and social care professionals, local authorities, local groups and of course our residents’ families. 2 examples: our Dementia Service Team is able to assess and support individual residents who staff struggle to understand and who may present ‘challenging behaviour’, before and following referrals to mental health and Outreach teams. This avoids delay and often resolves issues early on, often avoiding the need for a referral.  If external professionals are involved, then we work closely with them with a shared plan of support.   The other example: each year we have an over-arching theme for our Dignity campaign.  This year is our year of community. We promote homes creating and sustaining links with varied external groups and services.  Each home is expected to have developed 3 meaningful and regular links with external groups by Christmas. Being visible and active in our communities helps us be resilient and respond to local pressures and new opportunities for support.

The Green Paper is due to be released this Autumn. What do you think the most pressing concerns that need to be addressed are and what do you hope is included?

The most pressing issues are around integrating NHS and social care sectors, so that it is possible to work more seamlessly and in way which is cohesive and unified.  The result will be a streamlined serve where decisions are quicker, and delays averted. A cap on lifetime payments for social care would be welcomed, provided it is fair and clear to all.  Finally, I hope that there will be a realistic but meaningful increase in funding for social care for older people, so that providers are able to offer quality services, remain a viable enterprise and pay staff a rate which reflects the skill and dedication we need.  This will achieve the sustainability we need to see the sector secure and forward thinking for the next 20 years.

See Paul Gaskell's seminar on Dignity in Care at the Dementia, Care & Nursing Home Expo. Register for your free tickets by accessing the registration page here