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Social care needs to approach Sajid Javid’s tenure with optimism

George Coxon, author.

It was probably ridiculously ambitious to type Sajid Javid and care homes into Google and expect to find anything in preparing my initial words for this short piece for Nursing in Practice.  My expectations, I will always admit, are high of myself and those around me but those of our political leaders have continually needed to be managed in a downward direction culminating in the ignominious departure of Mr Javid’s predecessor Matt Hancock.

The British Medical Journal published an open letter to the new health and care secretary making 10 recommendations on the 1 July.

Mr Javid himself wrote a letter on the 2nd July to ‘my social care colleagues’ announcing himself and saying a number of important and impressive things, these include:

•            Acknowledging care staff have not stopped delivering the very best care.

•            Recognising we are helping vaccinate our way out of the pandemic.

•            His gratitude at what we have done.

•            Telling us it’s his job to put social care on a sustainable footing. And

•            Giving his word he will do everything he can to ‘look out for us’.

I really like all of these words and we have it in writing within the first few utterances since taking office.  I’ve laminated the letter and shared copies with my staff in our care homes, coincidentally, on the national Thank You Day (4th July).  

The BMJ recommendations are positive and optimistic and are worth using with colleagues across the great health and care divide as a tool to harmonise the essential key messages we surely must all see as priority for Mr Javid.  I have asked our senior staff to pick their top three of the BMJ list and share with each other and their teams. I, by chance, concluded a 25 minute presentation last week for a PULSE Live event for Primary Care Network clinical directors titled ‘Building Good Relationships in the Care Home Setting’ with three closing essentials – Trust, Partnership and Empowerment. 

The volume of those beating a path to Mr Javid’s door is considerable, of course.  Expectation management is as important as reputation management – for me, they are linked; as I suspect they will be for most politicians and us clinicians alike.  So in terms of hopes of our newest health and care leader, what do we want and when do we want it?  An equally important question is how do we help with constructive, creative and credible ideas that can do something I learnt late in my senior nursing and NHS career: Namely, how to get over any resistance we have to making our boss (or those in authority) ‘look good’.  For me this means allowing others to take credit for our work and feeling good about being solution not problem focused.  

I believe offering energy and enthusiasm with a ‘can do’ spirit rather than a ‘yes with attitude’ must be what we offer Mr Javid.

I make myself useful from time to time in offering a perspective on care homes and social care issues, such as being invited to the King’s Fund (I had a call for an opinion from them just last week) or asked to join an exclusive Health Foundation select group to help compile a report on the policy response to the Covid. There is no doubt in my mind we must raise our expectations and hopes of Mr Javid but at the same time suspend our scepticism or worse cynicism and try to help believing his letter and supportive words are a pledge and promise not platitudes.