I never tire of telling our story of how Hcsuk began, when asked, as it goes to show how great things can begin with simple conversations.
Last week, I thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing with Anita Astle, proprietor of outstanding local care home Wren Hall, about our 30 year journey together in the care sector and how she helped to get us started.
30 years ago in May, Anita had her first baby, Dominic, and at the time we were providing a baby nappy delivery service, Nappies Direct, to new mums and Anita was one of our customers.
At that same time, Anita, together with her parents, were building Wren Hall nursing home and she asked us a simple question which was to dramatically change the direction of our business. Here Anita takes up the story:
‘I asked if you could supply incontinence products which we would be needing for our residents and you said you could, however it wasn’t appropriate for you to supply incontinence products for the older clients as Nappies Direct, so Health Care Services, (now known as Hcsuk) was born.
I remember you joining the business in 1990, Jo, and that’s when the business really took off and you were able to provide us with a broader range of products in addition to incontinence products, including PPE, hand hygiene, pressure relieving and moving and handling equipment.’
This year Wren Hall and Hcsuk both celebrate our 30th anniversaries of being in business and Anita is still one of our best customers, so I asked Anita how Wren Hall has progressed and developed over 30 years?
She told me;
‘I think we’ve gone full circle in the way we care for our ladies and gents. When we started we had a handful of people living with us and it was very much a family business, my Mum and I were working as registered nurses in the business, Dad had his GP surgery on site and would come over for mid morning coffee, lunch, for mid afternoon tea and at the end of his surgery he would come over for his supper, so everybody would stop at those times of the day and we’d all eat together. Then as the home grew and filled, we became more regimented, I hate that word, but because of the numbers, I think it lost it’s family feel.
Then as more people started to move in with Dementia we changed our service, the way we worked and we embraced the dementia care service model, which is all about family togetherness, enabling people to live well and small group living, so although we have 53 people living with us now, we do live in small groups. That family feel has come back, we eat, dance and sing together like we used to when we first started off.’
I love Anita’s story and it’s wonderful that she has managed to recreate that feel from when she first started off. Since then, Anita has established The Mary Bates Day Centre giving day care to people who live with a Dementia and only last year redeveloped part of the building to incorporate Little Wren’s Day Nursery which is intergenerational. There have been many stories in the news about the benefits of intergenerational care and I was keen to find out more about how it has impacted her family members who live with her and the children, of course.
‘Well we remodeled the building in 2010 and we noticed the home like feel made a difference as the peoples families were more comfortable visiting, because they weren’t coming in to big lounges were everyone’s chairs were around the back of the room and everybody was sat staring into space. Things were happening and it was inclusive and more natural. So we had more family visitors and we had younger generations visiting so the next step was, could we embrace intergenerational working? Could we start to invite younger children coming in?
We had students from colleges and students from university and work experience coming in and the youngest was about 14, so we thought could we embrace younger children further, some of the staff asked us if we could start a day nursery, and we didn’t have the space and we didn’t know anything about children and then Mum and Dad had both died and their house was neglected and one night I thought could we convert into office space and downstairs we could have the nursery, so we did that and we have 30 children ages between 0-5 who run around and have fun, the come into Wren Hall and they light up everybody’s faces when they come in, the ladies and gents love it when they come in.
Our guests in the day centre see them walking over and they say, ‘they’re coming, they’re coming!’ and they get really excited and for the children they say to the nursery staff,’ can we go and see the ladies and gents?’ So they love going in and they’re learning how to engage with people, they’ll shake hands, give a high five or a hug and it’s just really nice to see them developing that confidence and those friendships.
Recently, there was a group of children that used to go over and cook with family members, there was a little boy who created a strong relationship with an older gentleman and then suddenly the family member died and the nursery staff were brilliant in explaining that to the little boy, but more touchingly than that, the family took a toy car that was a prized possession of the gentleman to the little boy and now its at the side of his bed and he remembers his friend, so I think that’s really sweet.’
Anita has achieved what only 3% of care homes in the UK have achieved, to be classed as Outstanding by CQC. I asked Anita when they were awarded it and how it feels to have achieved that rating. Also, it’s great to have it, but then she has to maintain it and how do they keep those standards?
‘We achieved outstanding in September 2016, as that’s when we were inspected but we actually didn’t find out until May 2017, as that’s how long it took CQC to print the report or write it up and make the judgement.
On one side, I felt very proud that we’d achieved it, but I felt frustrated that it’d taken so long for the report to come out. People were starting to ask “Is there a problem?” because it took so long to arrive. Five months is a long time to be waiting for an outcome. Its testimony to the great staff team that we have and the hard work we put in. We can’t stand still and think we don’t need to, it’s business as usual and do what we strive for.'
For me, Wren Hall always feels like a nice place to live. When I come and visit, the staff are always welcoming and the family members look well cared for, engaged and happy, which is what Anita and her team strive to achieve.
The relationship between the Hcsuk and Wren Hall has been regular over 30 years and we’re very grateful for Anita’s business and her loyalty over that period of time. We are also proud to be associated with another outstanding care home, as several of our longstanding customers have attained this fantastic achievement. 30 years is a long time to have a business relationship for, so I wanted to ask Anita what it is about us that has kept her coming back year after year.
‘So I think in the same way that we strive to support those living with us to have the best life that they possibly can, Hcsuk supports us to offer the best service that we can. I always remember something that happened years ago. You did a research project into the different types of gloves which are available to the care sector, what their different uses and applications were and the pros and cons the different types. So not only were we aware of the product we were buying, we were aware the risk we were taking buying one type of glove over another, and it enabled us to make more informed decisions
That’s just one example of the care and attention to detail you take when sourcing and marketing your products. Your 30 years experience and knowledge of the care sector gives me confidence and enables me to trust you as a partner to Wren Hall. It’s the same commitment you have to your customers that we have to ours, and that continuous commitment to improving at every opportunity I think is quite unique to find and it makes my job a lot easier. For that I do thank you.’
I am very grateful to Anita for her great testimonial of what it’s like to be a customer of Hcsuk, it’s nice to hear that we’re doing the right things and we look forward being of continued service to Anita and her team at Wren Hall over the coming years. to the next 30 years.