How Nightingale Hammerson chief tackles challenges on the homes front

Jenny Pattinson oversees a £40m redevelopment in north London and the 'outstanding' Nightingale House in Clapham


It’s now almost two years since the Hammerson House care home in north London reopened after a lavish £40 million redevelopment. The feeling of newness is still evident wandering around the ground floor, with its café, shop and spaces for activities or just to relax.

The day’s programme includes a “Pesach conversation”, exercise classes and a Fiddler on the Roof screening — the recent death of its star, Chaim Topol, prompted a slew of requests.

The site is “perfect for care”, says Jenny Pattinson, who became Nightingale Hammerson CEO last summer. “It makes it easier for us to do our job.”

But having spent 11 years at senior level with the Care Quality Commission, she is acutely aware that “the building helps but it’s not enough on its own”.

These are particularly challenging times to be a residential care charity chief executive.
Escalating costs, shrinking statutory support and difficulties in staff recruitment and retention can prompt many a sleepless night for those at the helm — particularly if they are ultimately responsible for the care of around 200 people and almost 500 employees between two sites. However, it is quickly apparent that Pattinson loves her job. She explains: “My role is to be around for residents, visible to relatives and available to my staff.

“The most important part of the job is to listen, otherwise I can’t make the right decisions. I know most residents by their first name. I don’t have an office. My office is the whole building.”

As well as working to ensure the quality of care matches the surrounds at Hammerson’s prestigious Hampstead Garden Suburb location on The Bishops Avenue, Pattinson has to oversee the costly updating of its cavernous Nightingale site in Clapham. The latest project is the refurbishment of a 40-bed high-dependency wing.

Forty per cent of Nightingale residents are funded by local authorities. Pattinson estimates the figure at Hammerson to be between 20 and 30 per cent, although she expects that to rise when its 20-bed end-of-life care unit opens shortly (it’s been delayed by staffing issues).

Although the charity “negotiates strongly” with councils, the weekly shortfall from local authority funding can be as much as £1,000 per resident. But she stresses: “We would never turn anyone away based on financial circumstances.”

Nightingale Hammerson needs to generate up to £5 million annually from the community to fulfil an ambitious programme, including 14 current research projects that will also potentially benefit the wider care sector.

Pattinson says she has “never worked anywhere with such a desire to innovate”. Fundraising is “just about holding up”, and she expresses gratitude for the support of the “wonderful trustees” and other key backers. She says “showing off the facilities, and what a difference donations make, encourages further donations”.

From her time with the CQC, she was aware of Nightingale’s excellence, maintaining the care home rarity of an “outstanding” rating from inspectors.

Whereas Nightingale has a well-established staff but premises requiring constant renovation, Hammerson boasts “a beautiful building” but a developing team. However, some long-term staff have transferred to Hammerson from the south London home and employee turnover has lowered, doubtless helped by regular rewards and benefits. For example, the charity recently purchased an electric cab that ferries Hammerson staff to and from East Finchley station.

“A large majority of staff are female and quite young,” Pattinson points out. “We have a responsibility to keep them safe.” Salaries at both homes have risen by 18.5 per cent in 18 months.

Residents benefit from on-site services including GP surgery, dietician, clinical psychologist and therapists. The multi-disciplinary team means that people can be assessed immediately, rather than having to wait for medical appointments. “The government talks about integrated systems. It doesn’t happen in reality. But it happens here.”

Nightingale is home to the pioneering Apples and Honey nursery, “an incredible resource” allowing children and residents to socialise. “We’ve given them a little more space. The value of inter-generational activity is priceless.

Hammerson also encourages involvement from the youngest age, hosting a weekly toddler group. Highgate School pupils visit regularly to assist reminiscence work, a key provision given that up to three-quarters of residents are living with dementia.

To support them, “it’s important in each case to determine the trigger. We use a lot of techniques, such as living in their reality.”

An army of more than 100 volunteers enables outside activities such as shopping expeditions, visits to Kew Gardens and even a boat trip.

Although Pattinson is not Jewish, her partner is and taking on the Nightingale Hammerson role has delighted her extended family.

They are Radlett Reform members, one of her children having decided, aged 11, that they wanted to be Jewish. She credits the shul for “being so warm and welcoming”.

In what passes for spare time, she is also a Liberal Democrat councillor in Watford. “I’m not a politician,” she insists. “I don’t campaign on national policies. Nationally, you never get anything done. Locally, you do.”

Getting things done clearly motivates her, “working every day to show residents that they are at the heart of what we do”.

She contends that the best way to maintain an outstanding CQC is to almost to deny the rating’s existence. “If I said: ‘Brilliant, box ticked’, we wouldn’t be outstanding [any longer].”
A newly launched “unreasonable hospitality” scheme is explained as an encouragement to staff “to fulfil expectations people didn’t know they had.

“For the majority of residents, this is their last home.

“It needs to be their best. That’s really important.”

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