Duncan Smith keeps £1m Nightingale dinner date

Iain Duncan Smith with Harvey Rosenblatt (left) and Nightingale chief executive Leon Smith

Iain Duncan Smith with Harvey Rosenblatt (left) and Nightingale chief executive Leon Smith

With a little help from his hosts, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith managed to fulfil his speaking engagement at Nightingale's key fundraiser and an event with David Cameron on the same night.

Addressing the 500-plus guests at the south London home's biennial dinner at Guildhall on Monday, Mr Duncan Smith apologised for the brevity of his stay. But he reasoned that, if asked to dinner by the Prime Minister, it was difficult to say no, even if the food at the Nightingale function might be preferable.

To accommodate his double booking, the organisers moved his speech forward to a pre-meal slot, where Mr Duncan Smith lavished praise on Nightingale - which he has visited twice - describing the Clapham establishment as "a fantastic concept" and "a care home like few others".

With people living longer, social care funding was a major issue and Nightingale demonstrated how to run a good home, treating residents with "the respect that we would expect ourselves".

The dinner raised more than £1 million towards running costs and essential upgrades. Financial matters were to the fore in chairman Harvey Rosenblatt's remarks.

People with dementia can still enjoy life

"Despite the parlous state of our economy and the woeful inadequacy of local authority funding, we are optimistic about Nightingale's future and its role in the community," he stressed. "As they say in the advertising world: 'Good things are happening.'"

Dementia sufferers account for 75 per cent of the home's 200 residents and Mr Rosenblatt said: "We firmly believe that people with dementia, like all older people, can still enjoy life. This sentiment drives our agenda."

To this end, the Wohl Wing, opened by the Prince of Wales in July, offered "a truly exceptional facility that incorporates the very latest research in dementia care. Adjacent to this, we were very proud to simultaneously open a beautiful synagogue and a unique reminiscence garden which provides residents with a simple walking route along which there are many colourful reminders of days gone by."

The upcoming merger with Hammerson House, in Hampstead Garden Suburb, would increase Nightingale's communal responsibilities and Mr Rosenblatt hoped the formalities would be completed early next year. "We believe there is a high level of synergy between the two organisations, both of which have an excellent reputation for providing high quality care. The combined organisation will house approaching 300 residents and employ 400 staff."

A film was screened illustrating how Nightingale enables residents to enjoy a fulfilling existence and Nicola Malin gave a moving account of how the home had reinvigorated her 97-year-old father, Morris.

Speaking afterwards, she explained that Mr Malin had worked in American military intelligence and was seconded to the Ministry of Defence. He had pursued an "incredibly independent" life, socialising with younger people.

Initially, he was unhappy at Nightingale, "but he adapted and now he is". Three years on, "the quality of his life has improved immeasurably. Everyone on the staff is his friend. It means that I don't have to worry about him 24 hours a day. I know he is being looked after fantastically well."

Last updated: 12:38pm, November 10 2011