Delivering long-term care in rural areas – improving quality and supporting the workforce

Delivering long-term care in rural areas – improving quality and supporting the workforce

As Europe’s population grows older, so too does the need for care services and support for social services professionals and care providers, particularly in rural areas.

As part of the Rural Care project, which aims to develop a new model of integrated long-term care, the European Social Network (ESN), in coordination with the Department for Social Services of the Regional Government of Castilla y León (Spain), organised a seminar at the beginning of March focusing on the delivery of quality care and supporting the social services workforce.

The aim of the seminar was to share the results of the project and the lessons which have been learned so far with regional, national and European decision-makers and practitioners and exchange experiences and perspectives with organisations implementing other care models in Spain and Europe. Through presentations and small group discussions the participants were able to develop greater common knowledge and understanding of person-centred care models in rural areas.

Alfonso Lara Montero, ESN Chief Executive Officer and Benedicto Caminero Pérez, Technical Director for the Elderly and People with Disabilities of Junta de Castilla y León Social Services, highlighted the importance of person-centred care models, which allow the wishes and needs of people in need to be respected, and which value and promote the role of both formal and informal caregivers.

RuralCare promotes quality in home care through a person-centred approach – including an assessment of the household at risk and appropriate interventions based on the person’s life project and wishes under the leadership of the local authority in partnership with other agencies. The project also promotes the use of innovation and alliances between the public and private sectors.  Project partners such as the regional government, the University of Valladolid, and the People Foundation which represents people in need of support offered an overview of the main challenges faced, highlighting barriers like the organisational culture and changing the orientation of services towards providing care based in the community.

Participants reflected also on the challenges of ensuring the recruitment and retention of professionals with the right skills, to cover the different professional roles and to have training on the need for coordination between different agencies.

Speakers from other regions in Spain also shared their experiences.  María Pilar Hilarión, Deputy Director of the Avedis Donabedian Research Institute in Catalonia highlighted that to ensure quality care in rural areas, it is important that integrated care in the home is prioritised in public policy. Mariona Rustullet, Deputy Director of SUMAR Public Social Action Services, also from Catalonia, stressed that intervention models must not only focus on people’ s needs, but above all, on their preferences and desires. She also highlighted the importance of ensuring that those professionals providing services are also skilled in understanding people as well as the practical tasks their role involves.

Representatives of English and Irish quality agencies, researchers on person-centred long-term care, and organisations with proven experience in the sector from Austria, Finland, England and Wales also gave input. David James, Head of Adult Social Care Policy Department of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), England, highlighted that to make person-centred care real, we need to ensure that health and social services provide people with safe, effective, responsive, compassionate and high quality care.

RuralCare has so far enabled 165 people to stay and be supported and cared for in their homes. It has proved that it is possible to provide quality care services at home in rural areas at a reasonable cost.

The RuralCare project will conclude with two final conferences, in Madrid and Brussels in September 2023, where the full results of the programme will be presented.