Review the range of groups and individuals whose communication needs must be addressed in own job role.
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In my role as Team Leader with Deputising Responsibilities, I have a wide variety of people and organizations with whom I must communicate. On a day to day basis I must meet the communication needs of the service users, with whom I would ordinarily use a relaxed and informal tone and, in some cases, short words and phrases to simplify my language. At the moment, all of our service users are fully verbal in their communications so no Makaton is required. When dealing with management, CQC, other agencies, professionals and parents or family, I would use a more sophisticated level of language but often find myself simplifying things here as well as there is a very wide range of understanding within this group. In all aspects of language (verbal, written, body, and facial) and with all interactions I need to be very conscious of matters of confidentiality and insure that I do not give out information that is not specifically sanctioned for dissemination to the particular audience in question.
Explain how to support effective communication within own job role.
In my role it is important to develop and maintain good interpersonal relationships with everyone that I deal with; this provides a substrate for all levels of communication. One of the ways that I support others to maintain effective communication at my workplace is by providing easy access to, and easy to use, template documents for staff to use when they have information that needs to be passed on. I listen to staff needs in this area and this has helped to keep the system simple and accessible. Maintaining a feeling of unity between the shifts also helps to promote good communication from one day to the next. When dealing with staff, I try to use language that makes them feel supported and part of a team. In some cases, it is necessary to simplify language for those staff that have English as a second language. It is also important to support these members of staff when asking them to prepare written reports or documents as extra help may be needed. In order to ensure good communication I may ask a service user to tell me what they understood of the things that I have told them or an issue that has been discussed. For some service users I would write down the main points or answers to questions in order to provide a concrete response to an issue that has been a cause of worry, or if they are having difficulty remembering, as a visual reminder. When writing reports for management or other agencies, I try to be succinct and accurate enough to communicate the issues without going in to extraneous detail to unnecessarily lengthen documents.
Analyse the barriers and challenges to communication within own job role.
Within my own job role, there are many issues that prove to be obstacles to clear communication. Time pressures often mean that one issue arises before the previous one has been successfully concluded and documented. The service users often want staff support for the full number of hours that they are allocated and have no understanding that this time must include paperwork such as writing records of conversation or case file documents that are essential for other staff to be able to work effectively with them. The demands of confidentiality can also provide obstacles where some information may help one party to understand the issues being experienced by another party, but it is not appropriate or acceptable to share that information. The number of sources of information can also be a barrier to all of the information being shared between staff i.e., notice board, log book, communications book, staff folders, emails, diaries, records of conversation/observation, handover book, etc. When starting a shift, some staff may find it difficult to access the relevant information before their service user wants their support to commence.
Evaluate the effectiveness of existing communication systems and practices.
As a service that has been open just over a year, we are still refining the methods and systems of communication within the service for internal staff communications. There are several sources of information (as detailed above) where various types of information are held. The day-to-day information is passed from one team to another via the Team to Team Daily Handover book which is the first place to look when commencing a shift. This document then directs the team coming on shift to any other important documents relating to the events of the previous shift and this is working well at the moment. The information specific to each service user is kept in a Case File folder, the format of which has changed several times over the last year and this has lead to a considerable amount of work for team leaders and keyworkers, but this should lead to an effective and much more user friendly format in the future. We have also created one page summaries for each service user so that new staff or agency workers can quickly familiarise themselves with the individual that they are about to support. The main obstacle to effective communications, both within the service and externally, is time pressure and the frequency of multiple issues arising concurrently. This makes it difficult for staff to record information fully and accurately and is an area where it is very important that the staff are supported to be able to complete this work. Lack of IT skills also impairs the effectiveness of document filing so staff need frequent reminders of how to title documents so that they are easy to trace from the digital repository. Complex computer systems also leave us with connectivity issue that mean staff and management cannot always access the required server for filing or retrieval so temporary folders are used until connectivity has been restored. This can cause problems if the issue is not resolved before the next shift arrive but can be passed on via the Team to Team book. Our IT systems are being overhauled at the moment.
Compare the effectiveness of different communication systems for partnership working
When working in partnership with the many external organisations that share the common goal of finding the best support and outcomes for our service users we have several ways of sharing information. Our primary method is usually email, and this is preferred as it is a clear and traceable system that allows us to track what has been sent to whom, when it was sent, and if a response has been received. We do log phone calls and make written records of the conversation, but these are less concrete as they are only recorded by one side of the conversation and could be disputed. Minuted meetings are a very useful method as this enables professionals to come together and have input that can be acknowledged or disputed in real time and decisions can be agreed upon without the delay of waiting for written responses. This takes time and organisation to schedule at a mutually convenient time for all required parties and is not always practical for those residing at considerable distance from the planned meeting.
Explain legal and ethical tensions between maintaining confidentiality and sharing information. The Human Rights Act, article 8 states that “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”. The Data Protection Act 1998 governs how we collect, store, share and dispose of information. The sharing of information is an essential part of providing high quality, person centred care and for running an effective service. As a service that holds a considerable amount of data on our residents it is important that we have procedures in place to protect the confidentiality of that information. It is a legal requirement and our moral duty to not share any of this data with individuals, companies or funding authorities that are not directly concerned with the individual in question. Even within our own organisation, we will remove identifiers (names, initials, dates of birth etc) from some documents before we share them with other departments and codes are often used to identify service users within documents in order to protect their privacy. There are times, however, when we also have a duty to disclose information about an individual if we know or suspect that a situation could arise where harm is caused to another person or group. In any such case we must decide “…whether the release of information to protect the interests of a third party exceptionally prevails both over the duty of confidence owed to the service user and the public interest in a confidential health and social care service” ( http://www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/confidentiality-code-of-practice0109.pdf ) This could include, but is not limited to, the reporting of abuse to protect others from the abuser, or informing the DVLA that a service user is now taking medication that renders them unfit to drive if the service user is refusing to do so themselves. In all cases, an attempt should first be made to gain consent from the individual concerned using communication appropriate to their needs.
Analyse the essential features of information sharing agreements within and between organisations
An information sharing agreement (ISA) is a set of rules for all involved parties to adhere to when sending, receiving, processing, storing and disposing of data. It should be structured to benefit the service users and they should be confident that their information is being handled in a secure and responsible way. It should be a clear document written in plain language that is easy to understand. The ISA should state why the information is to be shared, the organisations that are involved, the types of information to be shared and how this complies with the Data Protection Act (1998) and the Freedom of Information Act (2000). There should be clear guidance on the amount of information to be shared to guard against irrelevant or excessive information being included. Template documents for requesting and sharing information should be included as this will support the standardisation of data set to ensure information is being recorded consistently across the organisations involved.