EnCOP – Providing the best care for older people

21st April 2021

As we are seeing more people than ever before living longer, the need to develop and implement systems which support health and social care professionals to provide the best possible care for older people has never been more important. Here, Lesley Bainbridge, Clinical Lead North East and North Cumbria Ageing Well Network, talks about work we’ve been supporting with Northumbria University around a workforce development strategy for enhanced care for older people.

In the UK, more of us are living to a greater age and experiencing the complex needs associated with oldest age yet despite this only medicine has formally trained its people in the speciality of older people’s care.

Perhaps, therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised to discover that while older people are the biggest consumers of care, they are the group most likely to have unmet needs.

However, we have a solution. We have defined what the workforce needs to be able to do and have articulated this in an evidence-based competency framework.

The Enhanced Care of Older People (EnCOP) Competency Framework was the result of collaborative research undertaken through the leadership of Northumbria University between2016–18, which aimed to understand workforce development needs and challenges associated with caring for older people.

Since 2018, the framework has progressed through the Ageing Well Network of North East and North Cumbria. The Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC) is a key partner in the regional Ageing Well Network. The ambition is to work collaboratively across the wider health and care system to improve the health and wellbeing of our ageing population, whilst exploring the significant opportunities for change, workforce development and research.

EnCOP defines three levels of practice; essential, specialist and advanced and includes four inter-related domains all underpinned by a set of competencies:

A: Values and attitudes

B: Workforce collaboration, co-operation and support

C: Leading, organising, managing and improving care

D: Knowledge and skills for care delivery.

The vision to further develop the framework, which is standardised and evidence-based, has been able to progress following investment by the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System’s Workforce Transformation and Strategy Board. The funding secured allowed for the introduction of two Strategic Workforce Development posts which are shared by four health care professionals, each with expertise in the care of older people.

Using a cascade model, Angela Fraser, Sue Tiplady, Helen Kleiser, Lynne Shaw are working with colleagues and local leaders across the region to support the development of local competency assessor roles in order to ensure they can validly and reliably assess others within their teams. Care has been taken to involve all parts of the care sector and a variety of staff and disciplines are included in the year one roll out.

Dr Juliana Thompson, Associate Professor of Adult Nursing at Northumbria University, is leading the evaluation and a robust plan is in place which includes a successful application to the Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) for the North East and North Cumbria’s Multimorbidity and Ageing workstream for quantitative measures, while further applications are also prepared for qualitative evaluation.

Notwithstanding, the core team are keeping research diaries and the engagement team at NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG has ensured the involvement of patients and the public.

The EnCOP team are delighted to have made so much progress over the last six months but there is still more to be done.

In addition, we’re supporting incoming President of the British Geriatric Society, Professor Adam Gordon, with his commitment to introduce EnCOP into services in the East Midlands.

More locally, there are still organisations keen to become involved to develop their own local competency assessors and we need to pursue the development of curricular in partnership with educational providers. Ultimately, EnCOP is an option to offer recognised and regulated qualifications, transferable across the North East and North Cumbria and beyond.