Jul 20

Three decades in the frontline

Posted: 31 July 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the central role registered managers have played in tackling the spread of the virus.  Pam Packham has just celebrated three decades in adult social care, with the last 27 years spent as Registered Manager at David Gresham House in Surrey. 

Pam reflects on how that experience helped her cope with the current crisis.

In 1990 I noticed an advert in a local paper that The Abbeyfield North Downs Society - known locally as David Gresham House - were looking for a part-time Administrator Monday-Friday, three hours a day. I did some research and found out that David Gresham House was a 19 bed care home for frail elderly residents.

I immediately thought I don’t have a nursing/caring qualification or background, so I did not think I would even get an interview as my working life skills were admin/accounts and personnel, working with teams and independently.  I was apprehensive, but excited, to be offered the position, and knew it would be a challenge.

Time soon showed three hours a day was not enough as I supported the Matron to make sure personnel records, resident’s contract/supporting documents and Policies and Procedures were kept up to date with every changing legislation and legal requirements.  My workload became almost full-time.

In 1994 the current Matron retired.  It became apparent the role with managing a care home predominately required a person with the admin/personnel skills to enable the care staff to care for the residents, which is what they had gone into the job to do.

I was approached by my Chairperson at the time and was asked if I would take on this position on a fulltime basis.  After talking with my family, who supported me with my decision, I agreed to take the position on as The Registered Manager, knowing I had full support from the voluntary trustees and committee.

I attended an interview with Inspection and Registration Unit to make sure I was a suitable person to manage a care home.  I then attended college to gain a management qualification, RMA, Level 4 NVQ and Assessor qualification. I still regularly attend CPD courses and seminars to keep abreast of all changes in legislation.

I employed a qualified nurse to be my Head of Care to support me in managing the care team to give good quality care to our residents.  Our bed capacity increased from 19 to 23 as we no longer required a live-in matron, and this space was used to increase bed capacity.  I knew it would not be long before we would need to change our facilities for residents to enjoy the comforts of ensuite facilities. In 2002 a huge fundraising project was undertaken by trustees and volunteers to increase the size of the building to accommodate 27 permanent rooms, two respite/holiday rooms with ensuite facilities and four independent living flats. This had its challenges, but well managed to minimize disruption to our current residents.

 In 2003 after nine years having a good working relationship, and supporting each other, my Head of Care told me she was retiring, I thought my right arm had been cut off.  I now had to find an alternative person to take her place.  After careful consideration I approached one of my senior carers who had been with David Gresham House for 12 years.

He had good working knowledge, qualified at Level 3 NVQ and the residents loved him.  He was very hesitant in the beginning, and with my support I helped him with a Level 4 qualification and Assessors qualification.  I’m glad to say he is still with me now, and we have a strong working relationship supporting each other.

In all my working time at David Gresham House I have never experienced such a strange, scary and frightening situation as we are currently going through with COVID-19.

As generally recognized the Government seemed to be slow in recognizing the role of care homes.  Now we are receiving support and guidance, obtaining – COVID-19 testing for staff and residents and help with funding for PPE.  With the support of our own trustees giving us the free hand we managed to source enough PPE and I feel we are now in a strong position with reasonable stock levels.   

The support to our residents has increased to ensure they are still able to have contact with family and friends through this lockdown. We’ve increased the use of facetime activities to provide extra entertainment. and used Zoom for stimulation, and a way of feeling the people we support are in touch the outside world.  Staff have taken on other roles like hairdressing and nail care.  We still have not needed to use agency staff.

My role has changed immensely over the years, and I do not find enough time to spend with the residents as I would like.  I do not think of this as a job as the team are my extended family and I still really enjoy my role.  I have an excellent team of staff, carers, admin, kitchen, domestic and laundry and good volunteer support of over 70 people – trustee/house committee, tea/coffee helpers and others throughout my career.

This helps make David Gresham House the special place it is.