What is continuity of care? Continuity of care looks at how a person's ongoing relationships with their clinical team, and the relationships between different team members looking after them, affects their care.
What does continuity of care look like? A coordinated effort to give good care, which should progress effortlessly as the person moves between different health services, team members, or phases of treatment.
Working in a care environment, you’ll know the importance of continuity of care, particularly for those with complex or chronic needs. Far from being a meaningless tick-box or buzzword, supporting continuity of care has been shown to have a big impact on well-being and quality of life.
In a care home setting, continuity of care involves the creation and maintenance of a comprehensive and consistent care path for each individual. It goes beyond the basic routine. Instead, it involves developing an in-depth understanding of personal histories, needs and preferences, so you can deliver tailored care. It also means establishing meaningful relationships between the people in your care and those caring for them.
When the Care Quality Commission (CQC) evaluates your service to determine if the care you provide is responsive in meeting people’s needs, continuity of care is central to this. To achieve a good or indeed outstanding CQC rating in this area, you’ll need to show how you’re fostering an environment where needs are met with flexible, personalised and consistently high-quality care.
In this guide, we’ll explore practical ways to support and enhance continuity of care, whilst tackling the inevitable challenges of today’s healthcare landscape.
Understanding continuity of care
Delivering continuity of care means creating a consistent, reliable support system that helps your residents to feel heard, safe and cared for. This is especially key for elderly or vulnerable people and those with multiple or chronic conditions.
There are three types of continuity of care to consider: informational, management and relational.
Here’s a quick definition of each:
- Informational continuity is all about having the right patient data. It means making sure that every care professional and facility has accurate information about each individual’s health, with data about past and present care updated and easily accessible.
- Management continuity is about taking a consistent approach to the management of an individual’s health and well-being. This is particularly important when caring for people with chronic conditions or complex needs.
- Relational continuity involves building strong relationships between residents and caregivers, creating a sense of trust and familiarity.
Of course, maintaining consistency across these three categories isn't always easy. Residents might require very specialised care or have fast-changing needs. Staff turnover and scheduling changes inevitably bring disruption. And often, communication across care providers can be a challenge.
The person-centred approach to care
Starting with a person-centred approach is fundamental to building continuity of care. Person-centred care recognises that everyone has unique needs, preferences and histories. This approach helps to empower people to feel more in control of their own care.
What the CQC looks for: caring & personalised
When rating care homes, a key question the CQC will ask about your service is: Is it caring? That is, do your staff treat residents with compassion, dignity, kindness and respect? Does your service support people to be actively involved in making decisions about their care?
All of this adds up to delivering consistent, person-centred care. And the importance of this has been set out in legislation. Regulation 9 of the Health and Social Care Act was designed to make sure that individuals receive care that is tailored specifically for them.
This regulation states that care and treatment must:
- Be appropriate.
- Meet the individual’s needs.
- Reflect their preferences.
The regulation guidance outlines what you need to do as a care provider to make sure that each person in your care home gets appropriate support and treatment, based on an assessment of their needs and preferences.
Here are three practical tips to help you deliver person-centred care:
- Get to know each resident as an individual
Learning about their life story, interests and daily routines – and making this information accessible to everyone involved in their care – will help your team to provide the very best support.
- Involve them in defining their care plan
As far as possible, always involve residents and their loved ones in appropriate decisions related to their care. This respects their dignity and independence, and helps them to maintain an invaluable sense of control over their own well-being.
- Never underestimate the power of little things
For instance, knowing that Mrs. Patel enjoys sitting near a window to watch the birds, or that Mr. Brown prefers a certain kind of music when eating, can have a big positive impact.
Even something as simple as a warm smile and greeting by name can go a long way in making someone feel seen and valued.
Encouraging resident engagement
When residents actively participate in making choices and shaping their routines, they become partners in their care journey, building more meaningful relationships with their carers.
Inviting residents to contribute to care decisions, and respecting those decisions and preferences, improves relational continuity of care and, ultimately, quality of life. This collaborative approach aligns with CQC Regulation 10, focusing on treating individuals with dignity and respect.
Fostering togetherness & community spirit
Creating a care home environment that encourages further relationship-building through regular social interactions is equally valuable. Activities that promote engagement among residents – such as regular group activities, shared hobbies, or communal events – can create a wonderful sense of belonging and improve emotional well-being.
Fostering community spirit within your care home should be driven by the interests and preferences of those in your care. Where possible, empower residents to start their own initiatives within your home and the wider community.
Some examples of resident-driven activities could be:
- Wednesday morning gardening.
- Weekly church visit.
- Monthly board game night.
Looking for more ideas to get residents engaged? Read our in-depth blog on the topic here.
The importance of regular assessments and care plan reviews
Involving individuals in care decisions and planning isn’t a one-off activity. Delivering continuity of care isn’t possible without regular care plan reviews. These ongoing evaluations make sure that the care you’re delivering remains in sync with an individual’s changing needs.
Here are some simple strategies for keeping care plans up-to-date:
- Set a date in your calendar every month or quarter to review care plans, prioritising people whose needs tend to change more quickly.
- Go through each care plan step-by-step to see if there are better treatments or services available.
- Ask for feedback about the current care plan from the resident, and where appropriate, family members.
Creating care plans that are responsive to changing individual needs will also help you demonstrate your commitment to a person-centred care approach when it comes time for your CQC inspection.
Download a free, person-centred care plan template.
Ensuring effective care transitions
Smooth transitions, whether between shifts, teams, or care providers, are vital to ensure that those in your care have uninterrupted support. Effective communication, collaboration and comprehensive handovers are key when it comes to seamless transitions.
Simple practices like using clear notes, consistent documentation and regular check-ins between care professionals all help to ensure that crucial details are not lost in the shuffle, so the care journey maintains continuity, even when there's a change in care provider.
Here are three other ways to keep transitions smooth:
- Have a standardised handover procedure within your care home.
This means that important information is always shared when care professionals start or end their shifts.
- Maintain electronic health records (EHRs)
Digital records allow for the real-time sharing of healthcare data between care providers. We’ll explore more ways of using technology to support continuity of care later on.
- Let residents know what to expect.
Transitioning between carers or facilities can be stressful and confusing. Ease this transition as much as possible by telling them what to expect and who will be responsible for their care next.
Building strong care teams
A strong and united care team is the foundation of delivering consistent care. These care professionals are the ones who build positive relationships with your residents and are the familiar faces who provide a sense of trust and comfort in your care home.
Communication is key to a united care team. Regular team meetings provide a platform for exchanging ideas, addressing challenges and fostering a sense of unity.
Through shared decision-making, each team member's insight and expertise can feed into tailoring care plans and maintaining continuity.
Supporting staff well-being
When aspiring to deliver person-centred care, you mustn't overlook the well-being of those delivering that care. Long shifts, busy schedules, and the emotional demands of the job can take a toll.
Burnout and turnover among care professionals is a real challenge. Encouraging breaks, providing emotional support, and offering opportunities for professional development can go a long way to help your team know they’re valued and supported.
And when care professionals are well-supported, they can focus on giving their best to residents.
Empowering your team through continuous education
Quality of care thrives when your staff are offered opportunities for ongoing professional development. Regular workshops, online courses, and refresher sessions are all excellent tools.
This is where resources like Florence Academy can help – providing easily accessible training and development courses for care professionals.
Through Florence Academy, you and your team can take advantage of online training in highly relevant topics such as:
- Working in a person-centred way
- Conflict resolution and complaints handling
- Dementia level 1
- Core communication skills
With ongoing professional training, your entire care team can stay aligned with the evolving healthcare environment, empowering them to consistently deliver the highest level of care based on the latest best practices.
How technology can help you deliver continuity of care
When it comes to improving continuity of care, technology is your friend. Indeed, the CQC is putting ever-greater emphasis on the use of technology – in particular, transitioning to a digital record system – to deliver better informational continuity and improved care outcomes. Moreover, CQC Regulation 17 is all about good governance, and using technology can help you maintain more accurate records.
Here are three ways you can harness the power of technology to support continuity of care:
- Use EHRs
As mentioned earlier, electronic health records (EHRs) streamline data sharing among care providers. EHRs help to guarantee that crucial details about residents' needs and preferences are accessible to everyone involved in their care.
- Make communication digital
Communication apps and tools can facilitate real-time updates on residents' conditions, enabling timely responses to evolving needs.
- Fill shifts with Florence
Our staffing app helps you to fill shifts with skilled and compassionate professionals, maintaining a steady and reliable care team. Our app helps you improve continuity of care by:
- Prioritising permanent staff in filling shifts, maximising their hours.
- Sending shift invitations to the same trusted temporary Florence staff to fill schedule gaps.
Continuity of care matters
We’ve explored the importance of treating residents as individuals, involving them in their care journey, ensuring smooth transitions, building and supporting strong care teams and using technology effectively to improve continuity of care.
From personalised routines to meaningful interactions, prioritising continuity of care improves residents' well-being and quality of life. Each resident's journey is unique, and these strategies ensure that every step is guided by compassion, knowledge and dedication.
How Florence can help
To deliver consistent, person-centred care, you need a great team of people. That’s where Florence comes in. We can help you find high-quality, experienced nurses, care assistants and support workers to fill vacant shifts and support the staff you already have.
With Florence's app, you can:
- Auto-fill shifts with permanent team members to keep your agency spend low.
- Fill gaps with our pool of 90,000+ fully vetted Florence care professionals, inviting them back again and again.
- Permanently hire care professionals who meet your organisation’s needs for free.
Curious about Florence? Book a demo to learn how we can help you find, retain and train an experienced team so you can deliver outstanding continuity of care.
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