From sickness to good health

St Monica Trust shows that prevention is better than cure and wins two TJ Awards, reports Andrea Moffat

I’ve long held the view that it is possible to make anything interesting in the training environment but I have also seen many a training intervention made interesting but at the expense of the substance of the material and content which, as a result of the transformation it undergoes, can end up superficial or obliterated in favour of the vehicle it uses.

Judging the operational category of the TJ Awards in 2014 with Stella Collins of Stellar Learning, it was a delight to discover a gem in St Monica Trust which won gold in both the operational and not-for-profit categories. The quality clearly showed as their entries were judged by different judges against different criteria.

The training need

St Monica Trust provides high quality sheltered accommodation and innovative care for older people across Bristol and North Somerset. One of the major challenges for any residential care facility for elderly, sick and disabled people is infection control. Brought in unwittingly by the residents, the staff and visitors, once it takes hold the consequences for the residents and home are serious – sickness absence rates increase, whole sections of a building may need to close for a deep-clean and damage to the organisation’s reputation is possible. High numbers of infection outbreaks in the local community and hospitals were having a knock-on effect and outbreaks at the St Monica Trust were proving difficult to control.

An innovative approach

Joanna Boshoff, training and development manager, recognised the need to reduce infection outbreaks as part of the customer care promise of “well-being is at the heart of everything we do” and identified specific goals to support this. Staff were the common denominator in infection control and she took her base data as the percentage of sickness episodes among staff members along with the number of days units were closed due to infection and used these to look at correlation between the two, both before and after the training.

Jo found that infection control training across the sector is largely delivered through information leaflets, DVD and some e-learning but the rate of infections incidents continues to climb. She recognised the need to do something different and chose face-to-face training in bite-sized interactive sessions, delivered on site and across shifts at times that would not detract from the service provided to the residents. Despite the serious content the focus was on making the training fun, interesting and memorable so that its effect on the staff would be long-lasting and sustainable.

Jo delivered a series of short interactive sessions including a desk-top activity with cards for each stage of the infection in which learners had to work out the correct chain and how to break it. The use of a film, appropriately entitled Vomiting Larry, along with a 3D simulation enforced the message about contamination. This was followed by a session on effective hand-washing. Using a UV gel to highlight contamination caused by poor hand-washing Jo was literally able to ‘show’ how proper hand-washing reduces infection. The hand-washing exercise was supported with an NHS video Gangnam style hand-washing complete with the music! She concluded with an activity where teams were asked to clean a contaminated table enabling Jo instantly to assess the transfer of learning.

The achievements

Jo and her team had trained 550 people at the point they submitted their entry and it has proved to be cost-effective and responsive to St Monica’s needs – reducing staff absence by 42 per cent (by the end of May 2014 the absence number had already reduced to 118 episodes from 203 in the previous comparable period before training), staff have signed up to attend further advanced training courses to increase their knowledge, showing it has created an interest in this kind of training.

At the core of this programme was the well-being of residents and this has improved because the risk of infection is reduced. Jo reported that, as a result of the intervention, residents have not had to miss social activities or precious time with their families because of infection outbreaks.

Jo and her team have shared, and continue to share, the success of this programme with other organisations as a role model for the care community, and have delivered this training to other care providers in the area.

What it means to be a winner

Jo said that she was stretched by the application and panel interview process for the TJ Awards and that she and her team were overawed by the award ceremony and overwhelmed to receive not just one but two gold awards! She recognises that “for a relatively small, regional charity like us to be up against multinational companies and bring home two gold awards – it’s an amazing achievement”. The chief executive, Gerald Lee is rightly proud of the team, word got back to base and when they went in to work after the award ceremony their colleagues turned out to applaud them as they got out of the minibus. The marketing team has seen their opportunity to feature the team’s success on the website and in the local press. They had already been delivering the same programme to other care providers and now requests are coming in from as far afield as Birmingham and bringing income to the charity.

What next?

Even as the team were being interviewed as part of the process, it was offering a further two advanced courses; a practical Level 2 National Certificate in Infection Control and a Lead Infection Control course with 52 staff members having completed the former and seven senior staff members the latter.

Improving quality of care is at the heart of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and by 1 April this year all staff will have to be certificated to prove they are safe to work through Integration of Care Certificates so this remains a big focus for St Monica Trust. Within the first 12 weeks of employment in the care sector all staff will have to have completed and met 15 standards. With St Monica Trust employing around 1200 people, it must have a robust plan by then for all inductees and a retrospective process for all existing staff.

In addition, its own theme for this year is on equality and diversity and Jo already has plans for similar bite-sized training to bring this subject matter off-the-page too.

As a result of all this work, the profile of training and development across the St Monica Trust continues to be raised with the team developing new skills for the benefit of the organisation, and with the focus of the team on consulting its stakeholders, measuring the effectiveness of the training delivered, ensuring T&D has a presence at every significant meeting thus ensuring learning is on the agenda, and that the T&D team can maximise its still limited budgets so that ‘well-being is at the heart of everything we do’.


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