Guidance for Case Notes
The Dynamics database will create a more streamlined referral process for service users, operators, and the data team by keeping cases all on one system which is easily accessible along the referral process.
As a result of this accessibility, support line operators need to be mindful of the case notes they record from service users as they may be read by numerous people with access to the database.
After taking a call from a service user, it’s important that you effectively record the notes from the conversation in a way which will give the tactical area cells important information, without sharing more than is necessary.
Keep in mind when writing your case notes that Service Users are entitled to submit a subject access request to view the information being held about them at any time. All calls are also recorded, so there’s no need to record every word.
Below are some tips and some things to consider when recording case notes from service users.
Clearly communicate the need
Make sure you state clearly what the service user needs from the British Red Cross. This clarity will mean that the areas will be able to action the request quickly. An effective way of communicating this is through adding ‘Action’ or ‘No action required’ to the end of your case notes, such as:
Action: Please deliver a food parcel to the service user.
No action required: Signposted caller.
If a case is urgent, it is also helpful to specify exactly how much food is available (how many meals left, for example) – this will help tactical cells decide which of many urgent cases are most urgent.
Stick to the facts
Make sure that the information that is recorded on the database is factual and does not include any of your own opinions or feelings. Avoid phrases like ‘I think…’, ‘I feel…’, or ‘in my opinion…’. For example:
‘The caller is running low on essentials and requires a food parcel delivery, they have had no success with previous signposting attempts. Action: Please arrange for urgent food delivery. Agent XXXX. 26.06.20. 16:00’
Emotional Support & Safeguarding
Often, service users contact the Support Line and don’t require a referral, but they do rely on operators to listen to their concerns. In these instances, there is no need to record every detail of the call, only one or two facts that may be beneficial should the caller contact the Support Line again and wouldn’t want to tell their story all over again. Example below:
The service user contacted the support line for emotional support. Her husband passed away due to covid and she is not coping. She felt extremely lonely. I signposted the caller to the Salvation Army for ongoing support but told her to call us again if she needed another chat. No further action required. Agent XXXX. 25.06.20. 15:15.
In order to ensure the information recorded in these types of calls remains concise and to the point, there are some things we could consider:
What is crucial to their story?
Because callers often contact the support line repeatedly, using Dynamics means we are able to recall previous cases so the caller won’t have to re-tell their story.
This doesn’t mean we need to include lots of detail, it just means including the crucial points so that when a service user contacts us, they feel as though the operator is already aware of their situation.
Have they been signposted?
By keeping a note of the organisation they have been signposted to (and by having the record of this on the case in section 6 of the case notes), we can see what other support that individual might be having. This will also assist us in making sure we’re not repeating ourselves to the caller.
Is there a safeguarding concern?
If you receive a call where you have safeguarding concerns, please raise these concerns to your supervisor and report it to safeguarding (following the process on the Operator Manual). On your case notes, please state that you have raised the issue to safeguarding, and follow the points above.
In the ‘Support’ section of the case, you will see that once safeguarding has been activated, another box appears for you to type in the category that safeguarding concern falls into, please refer to the ‘Safeguarding Categories’ in the operator manual when typing a category.
Below is an example of an emotional support call where there was a safeguarding concern:
In the case notes:
The service user called for a chat as they were feeling lonely. Caller lives alone and explained they were not coping with lockdown as they were missing human interaction. Safeguarding raised on Datix. Agent XXXX. 23.06.20. 13:20
In the Support section, under ‘Safeguarding’:
Safeguarding Activated – Yes.
Safeguarding category typed in.
Angry or aggressive callers
Callers may sometimes contact the support line feeling angry or upset, it’s important when recording case notes from these calls that we maintain professionalism, remember that numerous people can read the case notes we write, and also remember that service users can request the information being kept about them at any time.
The Support Line is a service which has been created to support and help individuals, it is not our place to make judgements about them in the case notes.
Operators should never be on the receiving end of abuse from Service Users. Please refer to Angry and Distressed callers and Abusive callers on the Operator Manual for further information about dealing with calls of this nature.
If we receive a call of this kind, it’s important to follow the tips that are outlined above, as well as consider the additional tips below:
What is necessary and appropriate to record?
Often when a caller has expressed strong emotions on a call, we want to record as much information as possible to describe our experience. However, it is not always appropriate to record all the details, and as every call is recorded by Mitel, it’s also not necessary.
Here is an example of the case notes for an aggressive or abusive caller:
Caller was aggressive on the phone and was frustrated that no one was supporting their need for food. They became abusive and I explained to them that I would have to end the call. 24.08.20 13:30 Agent XXXX
Caller was upset and used language I/the operator found offensive, so the call was ended. 12.07.20 14:50 Agent XXXX
Tips for your format
- Avoid using block capital letters – these can sometimes come across as yelling or angry.
- Add your four-digit agent ID, date and time of a call at the end of your notes. This will mark that you finished the notes.
Examples of good practice
‘Three adults in household. Need food urgently as food is running out. Allergic to wheat and porridge. Has food for lunch and dinner but nothing for breakfast. Caller usually uses foodbank but they aren’t open for another 3 days. Action: Please refer to local area for food parcel delivery. Agent XXXX. 14.06.20. 10:20’
‘Caller explained that they have completely run out of food. Caller has attempted the signposts they were provided with when they last called. Caller very anxious and worried and feeling lonely. Signposted to Samaritans. Action: Very urgent food parcel delivery. No food left. Agent XXXX. 15.06.20. 17:30’
‘Caller contacted as they were feeling overwhelmed and wanted a chat. They are home schooling and working from home and aren’t coping. No action required. Agent XXXX. 20.06.20. 11:25’
‘Caller contacted as they have completely run out of food. I signposted them to their local foodbank and informed them of the opening times today. Also signposted to Trussel Trust. Told caller to call back if they were unsuccessful with the signposting options provided. No further action at this stage. Agent XXXX 20.07.20 12:50’