February 2021: Linden Court achieves CQC ‘Good’ rating on first inspection

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is England’s independent regulator of health and social care. On the 9th of December 2020, Linden Court, in Lewisham, received its first ever inspection. After a nerve-wracking wait of almost a month, CQC published its report and official rating for our service. We are delighted to announce that Linden Court has been approved as ‘Good’, the second-highest possible rating to achieve.

We spoke with Linden Court’s General Manager, Liz Alli, to find out more.

“Linden Court only opened in October 2019,” says Liz, “so this was our first inspection. CQC inspections can be quite daunting, because there are five important criteria you want to meet. We got the phone call informing us of the inspection at about 11am the day before. We spent the rest of the day double-checking that everything was in place and ready for the inspectors. We didn’t expect to be inspected while Covid remained such a big issue and, understandably, the inspection team placed a great emphasis on infection prevention and control measures. Of course, because our coronavirus protection procedures are very strict, it did mean the inspectors were kept at the door and then subject to all our processes! They got to experience our protocols, PPE, social distancing, temperature taking, sanitising and so on first-hand. In return, they gave us a full inspection; they were very thorough.”

This may have been Linden Court’s first inspection, but it wasn’t Liz’s first experience of a service being inspected. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the mental health and care sectors, starting in 1988 as a resettlement officer in the long-stay hospitals. She is currently in the process of becoming a registered manager with the CQC.

How did you feel about the report?

“As this is a new service, I was particularly pleased with the customer feedback and the staff feedback received by the CQC. A building is a building, but the people living and working there are what create and define the service you provide. I was so pleased that customers reported that they felt happy, supported, that they had choice, that we listen and that their voices are heard. My team has been with me from the start – I came in July 2019 and they came in September that year, so there’s a lot of continuity for us as a team and I’m pleased that they reported that they felt supported, particularly with the extra challenges of Covid. The Good rating, across all five areas of examination (defining the service as safe / effective / caring / responsive / well-led) is really positive, especially since we’ve only been running a year.”

What do you think has been important in achieving the rating?

“I think the continuity and cohesiveness of our team is really important. It can destabilise a service if there’s too much change, and customers – especially the age group we have – rely on relationships. Our team get to know all the little things about the people who live here. And customers don’t want to be explaining their needs to someone new all the time, it would be tedious. You may not see the same person every day here, but you will see the same team. That matters. And that includes me, as a consistent factor. During the first lockdown, I was actually locked out of the country. I received messages checking I was ok and that they were looking forward to my return. Which is lovely, and shows that we’ve built strong, communicative relationships not just with our customers but with their families. Good communication with families is so important, especially at the moment. We’ve made sure everyone in the team, even those who aren’t so tech-savvy, got up to speed with setting up Zoom calls for families and so on.

“I’ve got a very willing, open team. Carers are responsible for certain areas of the service; we have champions – in health and safety, activities and events, PPE, for example - and I have people fighting for champion badges! There’s real involvement from both staff and customers in developing our service. We have a customer ambassador, who meets and greets newcomers and lets them know what it’s really like to live here. The unvarnished truth. She was voted for by ballot, very democratically. There’s a real family feel here, which I have to say I haven’t experienced anywhere else before. The services and clubs are excellent, of course; it’s a real experience, like living in a hotel. We take a lot of pride in that.”

What are your plans for the future at Linden Court?

“Covid put the brakes on everything! Of course, we’re marketing Linden Court because we still have spaces to fill here. We have a sister service in Vauxhall Bankhouse and we want to do more partnering up with them and their customers. Last Valentine’s Day we had a themed tea dance, inviting Bankhouse customers to us, had games and so on; it’s a shame we can’t do that again this year. We want to make more activities possible, more trips out. What we really want to see if more customer-led events – we want them to lead their meetings and take more ownership of activities.

“There are also several other service providers in Lewisham and we want to build our reputation and be the leader locally. I think we’re on track for that and so pleased with the CQC report. It read really well and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved in such a short space of time. My team are rightly pleased with themselves and I think we’re firmly on the map.”