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Brain injury case management

Taking it back to basics

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Since its inception in 2010, NCM UK has become an established and respected name in case management. NR Times speaks to founder and CEO Martin Gascoigne about its growth, why being independent is so important, and how doing the basics well is key to the company’s ongoing progress

“I’ve done all the advertising, the visiting solicitors with pens, cuddly toys and whatever other bits of merchandise, the shouting about what we do – but thankfully, we don’t need to do that anymore,” says Martin Gascoigne. 

“We’re in a great place now where the work comes to us, and repeat work too.

“We don’t need to shout about what we do and how well we do it, because people know.

“And that’s what matters most. Knowing we do a great job for our clients, and that others know it too, is a very nice position to be in.”

Since its foundation in 2010, Neuro Case Management UK (NCM UK) has been committed to delivering the best possible care and rehabilitation to clients after life-changing brain or spinal injury – and its efforts over the past near-15 years have led to a well-deserved reputation in the marketplace, coupled with a strong referrer network. 

One of the biggest independent case management companies – possibly the biggest – NCM began life as a one-man-band but has grown to now employ around 100 people, which also includes specialist care staff.

It continues to expand on the strength of demand for its specialist services from throughout England, Wales and Ireland. 

And Martin believes NCM UK’s independence will be a key factor in being able to continue that trend, with the business resisting approaches to become part of a ‘conglomerate’, as Martin calls it. 

“Not long after we first started, we were one of maybe six or seven independent and well-respected case management companies – but since then, those who you would originally call my rivals have been bought out.

“But for us, we’re more than happy being a family-run organisation,” says Martin, CEO of the business. 

Martin Gascoigne

“We’re all about the needs of the service user, about giving value for money and great service.

“We’re not under any pressure from shareholders to meet targets or to make X amount of pounds.

“We can go and work with clients and families and literally not even think about that. For us, it’s about the quality of what we do and how well we are supporting the client – and that’s it. 

“We’re very proud of being able to concentrate on the basics, and that’s how we have built the reputation we have.

“We can look to the future with confidence, knowing we are the ones who control it.” 

NCM UK’s no-nonsense approach

As a social worker by background, Martin fully appreciates the impact of a very personal and authentic approach to both the client and their family – and that is something that has been ingrained in NCM UK’s offering from day one. 

“As a social worker, you don’t have enough time to spend with people, but it’s just so important. That’s one of the reasons I initially set up on my own.

“Spending that time with the client and their family and getting to know them as people is at the root of it all,” says Martin. 

“But in case management, and social work as well, you don’t often get an approach like ours.

“You’ll often find people going in there all suited and booted, all very formal. Whereas I’ll go and visit a family with a pair of jeans and trainers.

“We’ll sit and have a cup of tea and we’ll just get to know each other. 

“I want to try and remove that barrier that families can feel when someone new and unknown comes into their home and their lives.

“It can be a hard balance to strike as a case manager working with a client and their family, as they’ll often have different needs.

“A family can want to smother their loved one in love and care, which is a natural reaction – but the client might want to be independent.

“They can be at opposite poles, but by building that relationship and trust with them both, you can support them to reach somewhere in the middle. 

“There is also a lot of perfunctory ticking boxes, filling in forms, but we’re trying to break away from that.

“We want to make sure that staff dedicate enough time to the client and their family first and foremost, that’s always the priority. 

“We as a whole team have worked very, very hard on our approach to make sure we come across as informal and relaxed, whilst also being informative and meticulous.

“The feedback we get from our clients says that’s what we’re delivering.”

While NCM UK now has around 100 people in its workforce, with recruitment ongoing, Martin is extremely careful with who he adds to his team, with each and every member of staff needing to fully support the ethos of the business. 

“Our team are very happy with us and we have a very low turnover of staff.

“They’re really well trained and well supported, and we make sure they are well rewarded too,” says Martin, who pays his care team significantly above the living wage. 

“But what we need from them is that they commit to doing exactly what NCM UK promise to do. It only takes one bad experience to get a negative connotation around your case management.

“They are taking the good name of NCM UK out there, and our clients are expecting us to do what it says on the tin. 

“We’re fortunate that we do have a very good team and we all have the commitment to our clients where we just roll our sleeves up and get on with the job.

“We’re lucky to have such good people.”

In recognition of the work of his team, Martin points to the COVID-19 pandemic, where, rather than place some of his team on furlough leave at 80 per cent of their wages, he covered the costs of their entire salary personally. 

“As an employer, you have to show gratitude to your team. This is a competitive marketplace and if the good people aren’t rewarded, they’ll go elsewhere.

“Yes it has left me with debt, but it felt like the right thing to do. And not one person has left us since that time, which I think tells its own story.”

Dedication to compliance and standards 

With the significant and ongoing growth of the case management sector, but little way of endorsing the quality of those operating within it, the creation of the Independent Register of Case Managers (IRCM) is one of the most significant developments to date in bringing in scrutiny and accountability. 

Martin, a passionate advocate of greater regulation, welcomes the introduction of the IRCM, with NCM UK already gaining acceptance onto its register. 

Having spent years building the reputation of his business, Martin says the endorsement of the IRCM will be a valuable asset, both for referrers and clients alike, in determining quality and expertise in very specialist areas of work. 

“If my boiler was to break in my house, I wouldn’t just scroll the internet for some random person, I would go straight for a Corgi registered engineer.

“You can see instantly that this person has quality assurance in the area they work in – and it is difficult to understand how this level of regulation has not existed in an area of work like case management,” says Martin. 

“I believe this sector has been unregulated for too long, so the IRCM can’t come soon enough.

“In the past, anyone has been able to set up as a case manager without any real worry about qualifications, experience, governance, they can just start working.

“But this will remove all of that and will add another level of protection and peace of mind for clients and families. 

“We have case management companies who might offer five or ten pounds an hour less than me, and there’s nothing we can do to stop a solicitor giving them a case on that basis.

“But can they guarantee their clinical governance, their experience and expertise, their professional track record?

Previously, there has been no way of doing that – but now, to be on the IRCM list, you have at least 5,000 hours of experience and there are checks around compliance and competencies.

“This is an endorsement of quality which just hasn’t been there previously. 

“I think this will help to drive up standards across the sector, with a regulated list giving endorsement to those who are working to the highest standards over a long period of time.

“Case management firms are going to have to raise their game so they continue to get work.”

In addition to IRCM accreditation, Martin believes CQC regulation has taken on greater importance with the new levels of scrutiny coming into the sector.

NCM UK has applied for CQC registration, which it hopes to secure in the near future. 

Weve proved for many years that we are providing professional and high quality support, but I think we are now seeing a change in the marketplace,” says Martin.

I think as well as IRCM, CQC is going to be a badge which guarantees quality assurance and shows that policies and procedures are in place for clinical governance, which people are really looking for now.

“I think solicitors will be looking for that guarantee.

We have applied for it, we could have done it previously but weve never felt the need to because those we work with know the standards we operate.

“But we are seeing this new focus on standards in case management, and we know this is going to be very important in differentiating between case management companies.

“We are proud of our reputation and the work we do and welcome this new level of accountability.”  

Find out more about NCMUK at ncmuk.co.uk

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