Robert Stephenson

Putting care into the actual running of a care provider, Part 3

Morriss House – Managing with humility and compassion
It’s my firm belief that a manager should be willing to perform the tasks s/he assigns to his/her staff. This creates a more collegial environment, more able management, and a more reliable organisation (as there is one more hand to do frontline work). To this end, in December 2012, I started a healthcare assistant training placement at a north London residential care home, Morriss House, arranged by Stratford-based trainer, Citygate Training. Due to my general experiences with care homes in the UK and US, I did not have very high expectations of my placement. Little did I know that I was placed in what I soon realised is probably the best care home in England – operating with a spirit extremely similar to that of Penrose Care. Morriss House exemplifies the benefits of a humble and compassionate management which drives an operating culture characterised by compassion, patience, and excellence.

I arrived at Morriss House in the very early morning when the night shift was just ending. I was immediately pleasantly surprised by the jovial and upbeat nature of the night staff and had an inclination that I may actually be in a very special care home. As the day progressed, I became increasingly aware of the uniqueness of the organisation.

As I was taken around for get-up duties, the care worker accompanying me performed her duties with joy, compassion, and an incredible amount of patience. Nothing seemed rushed and I noticed this in pretty much every care tasks I saw throughout the day. As breakfast approached, I began to wonder what was driving the unique excellence of this organisation.

It may sound uneventful, but the light bulb moment came after breakfast, when I found the shift manager doing the dishes. Keep in mind that I was in this care home specifically due to my belief that a manager should be willing to do the tasks he/she assigns. So when I saw this I was fairly awes by the irony of the situation. At Morriss House I found an organisation which shared my views.

Soon after breakfast I had the opportunity to meet and discuss care with the home’s incredible registered manager, who I feel so privileged to have met. Here is a leader who has proved Dr. Knight and my strong held beliefs that if you treat staff well and manage them with humility, they will be more apt to provide excellent care with compassion.

In terms of some specifics of the registered manager’s philosophies, the residents and staff eat and drink the same things and from the same venues, creating a family-like atmosphere compared to for instance, having separate resident and staff coffee machines. Staff are given ample breaks and relaxation time during “down periods”. Humility is imbued in the management, and I believe this is core, and it is in part illustrated by the manager’s office being in the basement rather than a “ivory tower” in the top of the house, which instead is where the staff room is located. Although simple things, I am convinced they and other sensible practices are what drive the incredible warmth that you feel when you are at Morriss House.

Without exaggeration, I can say that my discovery of Morriss House was one of the most moving days of my life. It was the first time I have seen the operating culture myself and Dr. Matthew Knight are instilling in Penrose Care, a home care provider, put into practice in a residential care home setting. The results however are what I expected: excellent care delivered by happy and hardworking staff. And when you encounter this – something I have experienced at CUN in Spain (covered in Part 4 of this article series) and at Penrose Care HQ – there is an incredible warmth you feel in the organisation, a warmth that vitally needs to become common place in England’s social care sector. It also further convinced me of the incredible importance of Penrose Care’s mission.

Before I encountered Morriss House, I had very little confidence in the residential care home sector, but now I am confident care homes can be centres of compassion and excellence – Morriss House serves as a model of how this can be done.

In the next section of this article series, I cover the last model organisation in the series: CUN, a private hospital located in Pamplona, Spain which has successfully imbued excellent care and compassion into the entire organisation, from the smallest details through to its overall atmosphere and operating culture.

Link to Part 2 of the article series.
Link to Part 4 of the article series.

Inspection Report – Morriss House: 26 Oct 2012 (CQC, 2012), available online
Morriss House website (Abbeyfield), available online

Robert Stephenson-Padron is Penrose Care’s managing director. Prior to founding Penrose Care in 2012 with Dr. Matthew Knight, Mr. Stephenson-Padron was a healthcare equity research analyst at Merrill Lynch in London. Prior to joining Merrill Lynch in in 2010, Mr. Stephenson-Padron was a healthcare equity research analyst at Barclays Capital, also based in London. From 2003-2008, Mr. Stephenson-Padron was a research assistant to epidemiologist Prof. Alison Galvani of Yale University.

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