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Celebrating 75 years at Birtley House

Whalley Family holding 75 years care awards

Last week we proudly celebrated 75 years of providing care to the elderly on the Birtley Estate.

A truly lovely celebration!

As a business we were first registered as Eyhurst Court Ltd in 1932, and in two years time we will be due to celebrate our 90th anniversary of providing care and nursing. We moved to the Birtley Estate shortly after the second World War, took on the Birtley name, and have been known as Birtley House Nursing Home ever since.

We have remained a family business since 1932, and today our Directors Simon, Caroline, Frank, Tim and Sinead all have key roles in the daily running of the business. They know each of our Residents personally, and truly welcome them into the family, as well as their new home when they move to Birtley House.

On the day we celebrated with a little nostalgia in music, enjoying songs from the 1940’s and 50’s. Along with a special afternoon tea and Pimms, and a little history of important milestones for the business which have been achieved along the way. The COVID-19 pandemic which we are all currently living has brought so much scrutiny amongst the care industry as well as mounting pressures which we are all facing. To be able to celebrate such a milestone has been truly wonderful and uplifting for both our staff and Residents. We feel that 75 years of consistency in our business represents real strength and character, and hopefully confidence for our Residents and their family members.

We would like to proudly share this reading with you, by David Holmes, Chair of the Surrey Care Association. Sadly due to visitor restrictions David couldn’t attend to share the celebrations, but Simon Whalley proudly read out his words.

“People often ask me what Outstanding Social Care looks like...

I always answer in terms of the outcomes it enables people to achieve – the positive impact that care and support has on people’s lives.  In different settings this will vary.  In a learning disability service, like those that I run, it might be supporting someone to get their first job, or find a girlfriend.  In a mental health service it might be keeping someone clean from drugs.  In a physical disability service it might be helping someone drive a car, or access the community like everybody else.

In older peoples’ services it  is about supporting people’s well-being.  It is about enabling people to live interesting and meaningful lives of real purpose – lives where people look forward to getting up in the morning – where people feel safe and happy – where people are surrounded by people who genuinely care for them.

This is what Birtley House does in spadefuls.

Then people ask me what goes into building a care services which supports people to live rich and purposeful lives.

My answer here is that outstanding services have (at least) three key characteristics.

Firstly, outstanding services have excellent staff.  Your staff are the people who are delivering care and support minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.  In every moment of care they enrich the lives of the person being cared for.  They are people of great integrity, with strong person values.  They want to do their job as well as they possibly can.  They want to learn and develop.  They always go the extra mile.  The go beyond the call of duty.

I am, of course, describing the Birtley House staff team!

Secondly, outstanding services deliver services in beautiful locations.  Our environment is important because it affects our wellbeing.  We do know that it is hard to be happy if you are in a place which you don’t like. 

My acid test for a care home is whether I would want to live there.  It will be no surprise to you that I think I could be happy living at Birtley!

Finally, I firmly believe that outstanding services have outstanding leaders.  Here I am talking about people who own and manage care homes, and I am also talking about everyone else connected with the care home.  Leadership comes in many forms, and in the best services everyone is taking responsibility, everyone is creative, everyone is trying to make good things happen, everyone is open to learning, outward looking, seeking out best practice and bringing it back.

Here, too, I am talking about Birtley House.  The richness of life here, whether sculptural exhibitions, or woodcraft fairs, or marking VE Day or simply celebrating a birthday, point to brilliant leadership throughout the service.

I would like to highlight just one more characteristic of outstanding services.  It feels only right and proper, on the event of your 75th anniversary here, to highlight the importance of continuity.  Great services are not built overnight – they take many years of nurturing.  Think of the most beautiful garden you have ever visited.  Kew, perhaps, or Stourhead, or Stowe?  Now think about how long it took for that garden to become that beautiful.   Year after year the gardener has tended those plants with love.  Year after year he has tried something new.  Each year the garden is better than the year before.

Care homes are the same.  They benefit from the continuity which comes from having principled owners who have real skin in the game – people who have a long term passion for delivering the best possible care.  People who do their very best, year after year after year.

Make no mistake, the long-term leadership and ownership of the Whalley Family are a priceless asset to Birtley House.  They must be cherished too!

I wish you all well today and extend my warmest congratulations on reaching this extraordinary milestone.