Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission.

Last week I had the great privilege of visiting two services CQC has rated as Outstanding — Frimley Park NHS Foundation Trust Frimley in Surrey and Robert Owen Communities in Devon. A great contrast in size and focus but some common themes.

On Wednesday, Frimley Park hosted the CQC board meeting where we also met the senior team over lunch and visited services. I particularly liked the Time Garden — a dedicated outdoor space for people receiving end of life care. It was a sensitively designed oasis of calm and the comments in the visitors book showed how much people appreciated the opportunity to relax, reflect and sometimes to celebrate (weddings for example) away from the clinical areas.

Frimley Park has a budget of nearly £300 million but at the other end of the scale is the ROC charity. It has a £6 million turnover providing a range of services for people with learning disabilities. 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of ROC services and they started the year in style when their East Devon location was one of our first outstanding services. Chief Executive David Wilson quickly followed up with an invitation for me to come and see for myself, which is where I was on Friday. I am so glad I went.

ROC rocks!

David and Therese Timberlake guided me and Debbie Ivanova through various services — all designed with the aim of supporting independence and enabling people with learning disabilities to live the meaningful, fulfilling lives they want.

We started with ROC Active — dedicated staff embedded within the local leisure centre. They support people with learning disabilities to use the facilities like any other member of the public. Enthusiastic team leader Bobby explained how he and his team worked to support people to agree their goals, the activities they wanted to do and monitor progress. Individual routines were set out in easy read format which clearly helped with confidence.

Having visited ROC Aspects and the care home at Laura House where we were impressed by (among other things) the PowerPoint individualised epilepsy care plans, over lunch we met members of the service users representatives committee. They delivered a presentation on their role and the impact they had made. Parts of the presentation were videoed — just one example of how ROC is using modern communication techniques to ensure the voices of people using their services are heard and acted upon.

We spent the afternoon on the farm where the work experience (woodwork, metalwork, forestry, animal husbandry and gardening) is varied and clearly enjoyed by everyone involved. It was a beautiful setting in the Devon sunshine too!

Finally we looked round the conversion of a former care home into flats. In another example of the service supporting people with learning disabilities living ordinary lives, one of the flats had been furnished as a show flat so that potential tenants could see what it might look like. No different to how anyone would make a decision to move into a new home.

Why Outstanding?

One of my Improvement top tips few weeks ago was learning from others and both Frimley Park and ROC have so much to teach. So what works?

Both ROC and Frimley Park had a clear vision for what they want to achieve underpinned by a strong value base running through each organisation like the letters on a stick of rock. Frimley Park’s values (Committed to Excellence; Working Together; Facing the Future) were even printed on their branded napkins while ROC’s (Supportive; Respect; Passionate; Quality; Continuous Improvement) were on display in creative art form and crucially in the behaviour of the staff we met.

At CQC we ask whether a service is well-led because we know what a positive impact leaders and the culture they create have on quality — at ROC and Frimley Park you can see why.

Sir Andrew Morris has been Chief Executive at Frimley Park since 1991 and while he is very modest about his personal role, it is clear his calm, authoritative and supportive style has an impact. While visiting services, staff often referred to Andrew’s expectations as an explanation for what they were doing.

David Wilson at ROC beats Andrew for longevity by a year and also comes across as a modest man. But again, he and his senior team set clear expectations and are ambitious for what their services and the people they support can achieve. That good leadership extends throughout the organisation with examples of great leaders at every level — Bobby’s energy at ROC Active and Andy’s down-to-earth common sense on the farm were just two of them. I could go on but you get the point.

ROC pay a lot of attention to the needs of their staff — David meets all new recruits on their induction and there are opportunities for training, development and career progression throughout the charity. Staff were motivated and engaged, their desire to provide the best possible service shone through many of our conversations.

Similar traits were evident at Frimley Park where the teamwork and mutual support between managers and clinical staff were clear to see.

But what really shines through both services is the focus on the person. For Frimley Park and ROC’s changes, developments, innovation — I could tell that the first question they ask is, “How will this improve the lives of people using the service?”

My reading on the train home on Friday was a selection of stories about the people ROC support which have been published in the Herald Express — a brilliant way to end the day and a great way to show how ROC focus on the people who really matter.

Thank you

All that’s left to say is a huge thank you to Frimley Park and ROC but particularly to everyone I met on Friday. ROC definitely rocks!

Originally published at

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