Newcrosshealthcare employee review – £50 fine for being ill?

 

Mostly good, too corporate. A very “mixed” four years.

newcrossWhen I first joined, the Brighton branch was run by a very good manager. For the likes of me (healthcare assistant and support worker, on and off for twenty years, including a great deal of agency experience) and qualified RGNs, there was plenty of work available (mostly in care homes) and we were very well supported. After the manager suddenly left, things went slowly downhill. They’ve recently closed the Brighton branch, running any remaining business from Eastbourne.

Pros and cons

Holiday pay is included in the hourly rate. Pay is not bad but they pull a bit of a fast one by including “holiday pay” in the hourly rates. It may look as though you are being paid more than other care agencies – often around £8.00 for day shifts (below a real living wage), more for nights and weekends – it’s actually about the same or slightly less than other agencies.

Variable management. At least at the branch where I was. One stand-in manager was extremely insensitive during an annual staff review and I made my feelings clear to her and to the regional manager at the time. Newcross can be overly corporate, the word care in Newcrosshealthcare is sometimes overlooked – I had to stand up to them a few times.

newcross2The £50 fine “cancellation fee”, including if you are ill! What on earth are they on about!? It may discourage people from phoning in sick last minute but it really upsets and undermines staff. Fortunately, I’m in good health so this outrageous policy only affected me a couple of times. On more than one occasion, I worked with Newcross staff who had come into work with stinking flu in a care home, rather than go through the hassle of the £50 cancellation process i.e. getting a refund after a doctor’s note.

The call centre in Devon is sometimes at odds with the local branch. At one stage I put in a complaint about an incredibly rude and unprofessional call worker. At other times I would ring in to register my availability (Newcross tend to be a bit obsessed with this) and would later find out that it hadn’t been put on the system. On the whole though, most staff were doing a good job, some were lovely people.

Continually recruiting new staff when there aren’t enough shifts for existing staff. Newcross regularly sent me enthusiastic text messages, reminding me how I can earn a bonus for recommending people to work locally. Fair enough if there was plenty of work to go round but this was often far from the case!

newcrosstwitterMostly good but too corporate. Newcross sometimes seem a bit too concerned with their self-described corporate mission “to dominate the market”, rather than respecting their staff at all levels. Despite that, thank you to them for helping me pay the bills for the last four years, I made some good friends and enjoyed much of the work particularly the many regular homes and clients. I know from experience that some agencies are worse. I’m now at a smaller, more local agency which is generally a bit more human.

A shortened version of the above has been posted on indeed.co.uk, the job website.

BUPA care homes – big profits, bad pay

BUPA Dean Wood, near Brighton. Lovely building, shame about the pay.

BUPA Dean Wood, near Brighton. Lovely £7 million building, shame about the pay for carers and nurses.

“This home is open to all”, says the message outside Dean Wood nursing home, a BUPA home just outside Brighton. At around £1000 per week, I think that really should be “all – who have quite a lot of money”, shouldn’t it?

Over the last two years, as an agency healthcare assistant (many people think that agency workers are often part of the problem of poor care but I do my best), I’ve worked at several BUPA care homes on a semi-regular basis in Sussex. All things considered, I thought the actual standard of care was pretty good in all of them. Would I be happy for a relative of mine to be in one of them – perhaps the ultimate test of what one really feels about a care home – yes, having seen a lot worse over the years, I probably would. But BUPA is a big organization with around 290 care homes, so it’s no surprise that not everyone has had the same experience or thinks the same, as this thread on Mumsnet shows. A quick browse of the thread shows many common general care home complaints from both employees and family members with relatives in BUPA homes.

The last I heard, regular BUPA carers in Sussex homes were on £6.57 per hour, which I was told at one home is less than the kitchen staff are paid. Qualified nurses are also paid poorly, below average. Not content with this though, the management had put “motivational” messages up on the walls of the staff room to remind everyone of a few things. I may not have the exact wording right but I remember posters along the lines of “BUPA is generating millions of pounds worth of business around the world” next to “BUPA staff are happy in their jobs”. Getting a bit 1984 or Brave New World with that last one aren’t they!? Not only is this massive multimillion international company only paying healthcare assistants close to the minimum wage, during staff tea breaks BUPA is reminding all the badly paid carers and nurses of the massive profits the company makes – talk about “rubbing your face in it”!

Not surprisingly, staff morale tends to be low in BUPA homes (as with quite a few nursing homes of course) and many carers – including very good ones – leave after a few months.

15 years of agency care and support work

My main income since the late nineties has involved just about every form (apart from more specialized and highly qualified roles) of care, nursing and support work that there is. It has been, and continues to be, an “interesting” journey, to put it mildly.

Like many people in care and nursing, I began with home care. For a couple of years I had three regular characters who I would cook and shop for, and in the case of the blind young man, occasionally take him down to the local pub. The retired chef from Bangladesh was always keen to tell me about his experiences with prostitutes. The self-styled “bastard in a wheelchair” of my own age was another great character, but I wasn’t surprised to hear that he later drank himself to death. From there I gradually moved into nursing homes and geriatric wards at a local hospital. Commonly known as “the poo wards”, they were wisely shut down some years later.

ModellingPad

Modelling an NHS incontinence pad, around 2003

Having already had experience of helping the mentally ill with both my mother’s and a friend’s troubles, next came extensive experience at two NHS psychiatric hospitals for a few years. Ah, the joy of death threats from psychotic schizophrenics. Round about the same time, I also started work at an excellent NHS neuro-rehab unit, some of my most enjoyable and genuinely rewarding experiences – partly because a lot of the patients would actually get better. They would come in with a stroke, or in a coma from a failed suicide attempt, or a brain haemorrage brought on by an extreme lifestyle, or a recurrence of multiple sclerosis symptoms. Even though I was still working for an agency, I felt very much part of the team. One actually made a difference in helping many people recover, even if only partly. Good times.WithStaffNurse

For several years I considered qualifying as either a general or psychiatric nurse. For a number of reasons I decided against it. As an unqualified “healthcare assistant” or “nursing auxiliary,” one is hands-on caring for people, not endlessly filling in paperwork and dispensing products from the pharmaceutical industry.

Other work involved experience of autism and challenging behaviour, general wards in several hospitals, also children’s homes. Round about 2007, I gradually moved into supported housing and working at homeless hostels run by the local council. Most residents at these places had a mix of mental health and drug and alcohol (“substance misuse” as they like to call it) problems. As nice as some of them were, dealing with heroin addicts on a regular basis will quickly wipe out any of the more romantic notions that anyone might have had about helping the homeless!

Following big management problems with my last agency (the local branch closed down), over the last year I have re-established myself through two different agencies – in care homes, some different NHS psychiatric units, hospitals and a few other places such as a home for the blind. It’s okay, mostly I do actually feel I’m making a difference. I wish it paid a bit more, and of course it can be physically and mentally exhausting at times. At least as an agency worker I get a bit more than many regular carers – many are on £6.50 or less an hour. Something not quite right there?

A night shift

As there have been a few problems with new staff getting me work at my nursing agency, I took a night shift at Southlands Hospital for the first time in ages on Tuesday night. As night shifts go, it was quite busy, but quite enjoyable. I was on an orthopaedic ward, the patients are only there for a few days while they have their hip/shoulder replacements (or whatever) and then they go home as soon as possible. Compared to some places I work they mostly need a lot of monitoring, particularly after their operations. This involves hourly taking of blood pressures and temperatures which can get a bit tedious after a while, although the patients don’t seem to complain.

NightShiftIt can be a slightly creepy experience wandering around a large hospital in the early hours of the morning. At least I remembered to bring some half-decent food with me this time, it keeps you feeling half-human when you haven’t had any sleep. A couple of new admissions knocked on the door at 7.00 a.m. which kept us busy at the end of the shift. But just as we thought everything was done and the two staff nurses had started to handover to the morning day staff, we discovered a woman sitting in a mixture of her own faeces and fluid leaking from a wound. Clearing that lot up woke me up!

The main problem for me with night shifts is how they muck up your sleep patterns, unless you are doing them regularly. Otherwise I would probably do more as they pay better and are usually quite relaxed compared to day shifts.

One or two album reviews have surfaced on the net this week, and there’s been some very nice feedback indeed from several people who’ve bought a copy. That really does make it all worthwhile.