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Scottish Care annual Care Home Conference & Exhibition

Pushing the boundaries: care home reform and reality

Friday 17th November 2017

Scottish Care held its 18th Annual Care Home Conference & Exhibition on Friday 17th November 2017 at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow. 

The conference attracted over 450 delegates from across the health and social care sector.  It set out to explore the many positive ways in which care home provision and commissioning is changing, yet also the realities of the accompanying pressures associated with delivering this vital form of community support.

Conference Chair and previous Scottish Care CEO, Ranald Mair OBE, provided the opening welcome for the conference and outlined the importance of the timing of it, as the current National Care Home Contract draws towards a close.  He suggested that there are 20 weeks remaining to save the care home sector, and that what is required to achieve this is sustainable commissioning, funding and workforce.

Derek Breingan from the Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank then provided the sponsor’s welcome, highlighting the positive and important contribution that banking organisations can make to finance and sustainability discussions in the care home sector.  He also welcomed the ongoing relationship with Scottish Care and outlined the number of partnership events and opportunities, including the Inaugural Scottish Care Lecture, which have taken place throughout 2017. 

This was followed by Dr Donald Macaskill, who took to the stage to announce the launch of Scottish Care’s new report, ‘Fragile Foundations: Exploring the mental health of the social care workforce and the people they support’.  He shared some powerful messages on the reality of a fragile social care workforce.  Unlike the report cover which shows a precarious Jenga tower, care is not a game, he said.

Next up was Christine Bell from the Communities along the Carron Association, who spoke about the Cycling Without Age initiative.  She shared the positive impact of volunteer cyclists taking care home residents out on trishaws in the Falkirk area, and the plans to extend the initiative across Scotland. 

Professor Sir Harry Burns then delivered the first keynote address of the day, talking about the challenge and potential facing care homes in Scotland.  He provided a fascinating talk on the importance of wellness and purpose, and about this being about more than the absence of illness or injury but about improving wellbeing through assets-based models with coproduction at their heart.    

Dr Julie Watson from the University of Edinburgh then gave delegates an insight into her PhD research, which focused on relationship-centred palliative dementia care in care homes and the fact that even before death, dementia can be viewed as ‘a death that leaves the body behind’. She emphasised the importance of the body and embodied memory as a communication and support tool and the ‘slow work of gentleness’ required to deliver this care.

The conference then had the first showing of ‘What Good Care Means’.   This short film, created by filmmaker Michael Rea and commissioned by Scottish Care, showcases examples of what difference the delivery of high quality care home support makes to the lives of residents and their families. 

After refreshments and a chance to explore the 80+ exhibition stands, delegates headed to one of a range of ten insight sessions covering various areas of policy and practice in the care home sector from law and finance to pressure ulcers and hydration. 

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To kick-start the afternoon session, Dr Tara French from Glasgow School of Art spoke of the vast physical, psychological, cognitive and social benefits of music for wellbeing.  To demonstrate the point, she managed to get over 400 delegates singing in the first care home conference choir which proved to be hugely enjoyable and surprisingly tuneful!

Tara was followed by an address by the Cabinet Secretary for Health & Sport, Shona Robison, who spoke of the new health and social care standards as well as the importance of innovation and redesign.  She asked that everyone works together with the Scottish Government to deliver health and social care reform on a journey towards choice, control and independence for the individual whilst delivering the right care in the right place at the right time. 

The programme then focused on practice and research-based inputs which showcased innovative approaches and new learning in the care home sector.  Firstly, Ann Murray from the Active and Independent Living Improvement Programme challenged delegates to take part in the Balance Challenge as a means of highlighting ways in which falls can be reduced.

 Ann was followed by Margaret McDonald from Summerlee Care Home and Alice Macleod from the NHS who introduced a short video relating to their award winning, partnership based continence project in North Lanarkshire.

The final input of the day came from COSLA’s Sally Loudon and Paula McLeay, who gave their perspective on the National Care Home Contract reform agenda.  They highlighted the importance of partnership in this difficult work whilst also recognising the challenges of growing demand, limited resource and the need to ensure that changes in local government personnel doesn’t negatively impact on the relationships developed even if it means changes in priorities and the future direction of the contract.

To close the day, Ranald Mair thanked all contributors and stated that delegates from all parts of the sector need to ask:

“Not, ‘can we afford to properly fund care?’ but ‘can we afford not to?’”


“We need to stop seeing care as a cost, but as a contributor.”

Donald Macaskill then delivered his closing remarks.  He highlighted the economic value of social care, a sector which employs 1 in 13 Scots, and the need to properly prioritise the country’s resources and needs.  He called for urgent re-imagination of care and closed on the following statement:

Scottish Care would like to thank everyone that helped make this year’s Care Home Conference a success, including delegates, speakers, exhibitors and sponsors. 

You can also see tweets from the day at the hashtag #carehome17

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