According to Martin,Charlesworth and Henderson(2010), people with legitimate interest in health and social care have varying interpretations regarding quality. In this competitive world, quality of service delivery is very essential to both the users and stakeholders who might be charity groups, social service departments, and private practitioners. Quality refers to meeting customers’ expectations and needs. Organisations should approach the concept of quality from a customer’s point of view because they tend to have different situations, values, and grounds for assessment.
Barnard (2010) states that some professionals advocate for the delivery of high quality services to meet customers’ demands. However, others view quality to be whatever is effective for meeting their goals while most governments describe it as conformance to set standards normally influenced by law, values and code of conduct. Health and social care facilities must have competent personnel to sustain delivery of high quality services. Both the cultural and technical aspects of competence are required for support staff.
Henderson and Atkinson (2003) point out that external agencies play an important role in setting standards used while conducting an audit of the services provided to gauge whether or not they meet the expectations of the users. They help in identifying any quality failures and taking corrective measures depending on their findings. To keep up with high-quality services, personnel in the various settings must have expertise in their respective fields. Poor service quality has adverse effects on health and social care stakeholders including those paying to get services and the service providers. To begin with, clinical effectiveness will not be achieved thus leading to poor outcomes due to lack of guaranteed safety for the patients. Not only will it leave the patients unsatisfied as their expectations remain unfulfilled but also abate their trust in such institutions. The experiences that patients get really matter since most of them evaluate quality based on interpersonal and environmental factors, which medical professionals always refer to as least important. Service providers end up receiving penalties, warning notices, suspensions, and prohibition from rendering certain services for not meeting quality standards as expected by the regulatory bodies. Poor quality service taints an institution’s image and can lead to termination of funding from sponsors.
Strategies for Achieving Quality in Health and Social Care Services
There are numerous standards that aim at raising the quality of services. In North Ireland, the health ministry developed and launched the Quality Standards for Health and Social Care in 2006 to assist service users in understanding the quality of service they should receive. These standards give organisations a measure according to which they can assess themselves. Moreover, they allow for assessing the safety and quality of health and social services formally. They also assist in assigning duties with respect to human rights and equality of the people of Northern Ireland. In the UK, service providers should understand the legal issues to ensure the safety of services in line with the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974. Compliance with the laws is important for all parties, as these standards aim at setting minimum requirements on quality but not limit services. In addition, planning has to be thorough before implementing a quality system, as there are numerous approaches for doing that(Health, Social Services and Public Safety 2014).
Following the understanding of quality as a standard based issue, most regulatory organisations analyse quality by how they conform to the set standards. These organisations use standards for auditing the quality of service rendered. In addition, other measurable indicators of performance are put in place to ensure the achievement of target goals. Individuals who consider quality to be the fulfilment of patients’ needs analyse it differently based on whether they satisfy and fulfil those needs. Lastly, quality can be analysed according to the level of achievement of the goals of a given health and social care setting. Besides that, organisations experience challenging times during recruitment as there is a shortage of well-trained people(Henderson & Atkinson 2003).
Similar to our individual lives where we encounter challenges on a daily basis, there are barriers to delivery of quality in health and social care services. Most staff is not properly trained thus making improvement of quality such a hustle. Moreover, members of staff lack the morale to do quality job without proper motivational programs. Organisations should provide incentives for individuals who demonstrate exceptional performance to motivate them to maintain the good spirit. Most societies lack cultures and values that emphasise on patient service hence leading to poor quality service. However, some of the procedures to be undertaken at work are never implemented. As a rule, institutions tend to be devoid of committed team leaders. In some cases, there is no co-ordination among the workers in the organisation posing a challenge as it cannot make positive moves(Jones & Bennett 2012).
Systems, Policies, and Procedures
According toClouston and Westcott (2005), establishment of policies covering such issues as hazardous waste and fire assist in ensuring services offered are in check. Hospitals also have their policies to guide them in their operations. Other factors that influence the achievement of quality in health and social care services are outcomes of a given procedure and clinical effectiveness. If there are many survivors of a specific treatment and they have reported positive outcomes, it means that a high-quality service is provided. Accessibility of health and social care by all without barriers due to money improves efficiency of services offered. Moreover, provision of care that is patient-centred escalates the quality level of service.
The improvement of quality in health and social care is of utmost importance as it aids in managing the rising demand for good services and prevention of ill health. The training of health and social care professionals should be in alignment with the standards set by regulatory agencies and the government. Proper training is quite beneficial as it the professionals will prioritise the safety of their patients. In addition, the admission of individual to health and social care programs should be aimed at identifying people who have thirst for knowledge, is willing to advance their studies, and is keen to attend seminars and conferences to ensure they remain informed about the constant changes in their respective fields and can offer varied solutions (Clouston & Westcott 2005).
Service providers play an important role in ensuring that service users are provided with services of an agreeable level of quality at their institutions. Therefore, service providers should understand their responsibilities and always prioritise the needs of their patients. They should make effort and familiarise themselves with their patients and their carers individually in order to facilitate them to make informed decisions. Organisations should ensure that they formulate and maintain effective communication channels among their staff members. This is crucial as it supports fast and timely sharing of information about the care that a service user is receiving and gives an understanding of whether additional care is required so that any staff member who takes up a shift is able to manage the care in an effective manner and make good decisions. In line with this, most organisations have implemented electronics databases(Thomas, Pollard & Sellman 2014).
Methodologies for Evaluating Service Quality
Jones and Bennett (2012) state that health and social care environments need to have internal performance indicators for evaluating their service quality. Employers can also come up with policies for using at work and circulate them to ensure compliance within their institutions. Another powerful measure for service quality is feedback forms. Service users fill up the forms often providing honest answers. Organisations can then analyse the feedback with a view of identifying areas that need change and make improvements by means of useful feedback. In general, health and social care institutions should develop codes of conduct and ensure that their staff members adhere to the set guidelines. This ensures that organisations align employee efforts with the overall objectives of the organisations, which is important in providing excellent service and meeting specific needs of the service users.
Organisations can also conduct assessments on service quality from an external perspective. For example, the NHS in the United Kingdom developed and implemented Performance Assessment Framework (PAF) that aims at providing an extensive view of performance. Apart from PAF including many stakeholders with diverse interests, it is also a government’s tool for strategic management linking local activities and national strategies. It utilises regular interviews to determine the perceptions of service users sharing their experience. However, one cannot effectively evaluate the outcomes of a procedure solely on the basis of service quality. The way of how service providers and carers offer and deliver the services is as crucial as high quality service. The 10 basic requirements for service users include access, communication, competence, courtesy, credibility, reliability, responsiveness, security, and understanding of the patients’ needs(Barnard 2010).
Involving service users in the evaluation process has beneficial implications on the quality of service as they influence decision making. They help set standards for evaluating services and assess whether the services meet their demands and expectations. Organisations can consult them when implementing changes. They can also take part in research to identify areas that require improvement.