EXCLUSIVE: Keeping it in the family

Tim, Frank, Caroline and Simon Whalley

Birtley House Nursing Home near Guildford, which was rated Outstanding by the CQC last year, is a real family affair. The home, which is run by Simon Whalley and his wife Caroline and two sons Tim and Frank has been a family business for more than 80 years. Care Home Professional went to see how their model for providing Outstanding care works.

There can be few homes in the country set within such picturesque surroundings as Birtley House.

The Victorian home is set within 48 acres of gardens, parkland and rolling pasture dotted with grazing cattle.

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“We have tried to carry on the ethos of a family business that was started by my grandfather who was a doctor,” Simon told me.

Simon’s grandfather started caring for people living with what is now known as dementia in his own home in the 1920s.

“We have tried to combine that family caring ethos with being innovative. Although we are just a small home we still provide a lot of leadership locally and nationally in terms of the way we do things,” Simon said.

Combining the old with the new, Birtley boasts fine period interior design and gardens as well as the latest care technology.

The home is equipped with state of the art MED-E-CARE care planning and eMAR electronic medication systems.

Home manager Karen Williams said: “We are very compassionate and caring here but we also want to be more efficient in the mundane stuff so that we can release time so that the carers can spend more of it with the residents because that’s what they really want.”

Birtley provides a full range of care to residents from low dependency and respite and rehabilitation to end-of-life care. They enjoy a very high quality of life with a wide range of activities and personal support.

Opened in 1999, the home’s adjoining Mews development offers supported living to people seeking to maintain their independence.

The Mews accommodation offers a pioneering alternative to the standard lease model where residents can buy a ‘lifetime licence’ of their apartments.  The model has also been adopted for some residents in the care home itself.

“By taking ownership, people feel that they have moved home rather than into a home,” Simon said.

“It’s a far more simple and flexible model than leasing.”

Frank said: “Coming here can be a real breath of fresh air for people because we try and allow people to continue to do the things that they would be doing if they were living in their own home.”

The home’s 48 acres are used to connect residents with the local community by hosting events such as sculpture exhibitions and an annual Surrey Hills Wood Fair. Local schools are also invited to the property to give concerts for the public and residents.

“We probably have 10,000 or 11,000 people every year coming through the grounds,” Frank said.

“Our residents can feel proud of where they live and share it with their friends and families.”

“It’s so important to have something on your doorstep that people can engage with,” Home Manager Karen Williams added.

“We bring everyday life into the home as much as possible.”

The home also offers the use of its gardens to a local group of young people with learning difficulties to develop new skills.

A Day Club provides a wide range of events and activities, including hairdressing, massage treatments and lunch and afternoon tea with the residents.