The 40-bed family owned home run by Alison Lee and her husband Gabriel celebrated its top rating in November (see EXCLUSIVE: Hampshire care home is ‘outstanding’) along with its 40th anniversary.

“We were celebrating our 40th when we got news of the outstanding so it’s been party after party,” Alison said.

Unlike some other homes we have spoken to, Alison and her team did not prepare for their CQC inspection.

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“Nothing is just a tick box exercise it’s all about having a positive outcome and impact on our residents.

“I get really cross when people say you need to do this for the CQC,” Alison added.

“We don’t do anything just for the CQC, we do it for our residents’ benefit and care. It’s us as we are. We couldn’t prepare because we didn’t know they were coming.

“Sometimes we don’t communicate well enough to the CQC what we are doing. I think that’s probably what our biggest weakness has been in the past.”

General manager Jo Grinyer added: “What we are doing is so natural to us that sometimes we can forget that what we are doing really is special.”

Manager Vicky Ayling, who has been with the home for 17 years, said “really good team work” and listening to the residents was the home’s winning formula.

Alison and her team spend a lot of time getting to know the life histories of their residents so their care is as personalised as possible.

“We get to know their life histories,” Jo said. “We use that to shape everything we do from the activities to the care.”

Staff training is key for Woodlands and Hill Brow, which achieved Investors in People Gold status in 2013.

“When we are recruiting we are looking for a spark in people and a desire to do this,” Alison said.

“All of our staff from the laundry man to the manager are trained very heavily.”

Staff turnover is low for the group at just under 20% with no agency staff at the homes. The group has signed up to the Living Wage which offers a minimum rate of £8.45 an hour.

Annual bonuses are also provided and staff are further incentivised through a “staff achiever” award with staff nominated each month by residents for a £25 prize.

When hiring, the group looks for the right attitude rather than qualifications.

“We can teach anyone without the qualifications,” Alison said. “All of our senior staff are qualified assessors so they all teach NVQ.”

Jo added: “Sometimes it is easy when people don’t have previous experience so we can train them in our ways.”

The home offers dementia forums to help relatives on what to do when they come in to see their loved ones. It also has a dementia specialist who works alongside the staff.

“While we have a nursing home where we can move people if necessary we are aware that moving people living with dementia can be very distressing. After all this is their home so we support the staff to make sure people can stay here for as long as possible,” Jo said.

“We are trying to lead and shape the future for all care homes by sharing our experiences and knowledge.”

Through her nursing background and experience as a community matron Jo has led the way in minimising hospital admissions for Woodlands’ residents through training staff to recognise the signs of infection and preventing falls.

“Our hospital admissions across our three homes have halved thanks to Jo’s training,” Alison said.

With weekly rates of £840-£1,090 for residential care the group is predominantly made up of private, fee-paying residents.

“We have to make a profit to make sure that we are still running next year as it enables us to invest for the future and in our staff.”


When touring Woodlands, Care Home Professional was struck by the little thoughtful touches that make the home special. A quiet area in one of the home’s corridors is a favourite spot of one resident who simply likes to watch the passing traffic. A TV camera has been set up on a bird box in the home’s garden so residents can watch birds as they feed. In the dining room, a calendar of events provides information on a packed weekly itinerary of activities which include visits from a ‘pat dog’.

Chef Becky Collier offers a  different menu each day catering to the tastes of the residents. Becky’s  ‘booze trolley’ is a big favourite. She also runs a popular cooking club on a Thursday afternoon where residents can cook their own tea.

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The author Lee Peart

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