“I will never again take for granted the benefits of a large organisation with central office support functions and peer support."
Louise Axtell, ECH Assistant Regional Director, explains why she returned to OSJCT.
Louise, who returned to OSJCT as Extra Care Housing Assistant Regional Director earlier this year, took a serendipitous career route from chef to senior leader in adult social care.
Her first experience working in care came when Louise, a trained chef, was asked by a friend to ‘help out’ in a 76-bed nursing home cooking food for elderly residents which became a permanent role. She stayed with that company for several years, latterly working as the Hotel Services Manager which took her into new areas, including running front of house, domestic teams, maintenance, and invoicing. While working, Louise also studied for, and gained, an Advanced Diploma in leading care services, with Oxford Brookes University.
Moving on from that nursing home Louise worked in facilities management at the University but found that she missed the contact with people she had enjoyed in care. This led Louise to OSJCT where she became Home Manager at Spencer Court in Woodstock. Under her leadership, the home achieved Outstanding star for being ‘Well led’ in its CQC inspection at the time.
Louise was then asked to manage Meadowcroft in Thame, where she supported the home through a challenging CQC inspection which resulted in a ‘Good’ rating.
A few years later, Louise was approached by Berkley Care Group to manage Cumnor Hill House, an independently registered home in Oxford. The home received a CQC Requires Improvement rating within just weeks of Louise’s start date. She worked there for four years, spending the first year driving a plan to take the home from ‘Requires Improvement’ to ‘Outstanding’.
Following the pandemic Louise returned to OSJCT in May 2021, taking up a senior leadership role running Extra Care Housing. Reflecting on her experiences with different employers, Louise explained the value of working for a care provider with central infrastructure. She said: “Having worked for several employers now, I will never again take for granted the benefits of a large organisation with central office support functions, and the peer support available between managers of homes and schemes.”
The benefits of the infrastructure at OSJCT came to the fore during COVID-19 when homes were supplied with extensive PPE, infection control procedures and protocols, health and safety risk assessments, HR advice and guidance, recruitment support and many more vital components to running a care home.
Louise continued: “Working in an independent care home there was no peer support, and very few colleagues to confer with. At one point, I put several thousand pounds of critical PPE purchases on my own personal credit card because there was no central procurement team. A few months prior to this, the home’s kitchen oven and boiler broke on Christmas Eve, and it was down to me to beg and borrow equipment to ensure that residents had a festive meal. I even had to support a CQC inspection via teams, from my home, whilst suffering from COVID-19.”
“What I appreciate from these experiences now, is that OSJCT is a fantastic place to work. I feel supported personally, by everyone I work with, from frontline colleagues to our teams across property, care quality, and HR, and I am given all the tools, all the correct paperwork, along with expert advice to get it right.
“It is a blessing to have expert teams available to all our care homes and schemes, so that managers can get on and run the home, support teams and spend more time doing what they love, caring for residents and clients.
“Working for OSJCT means that at the end of the working day, I can also relax with my family and know that our schemes are being well looked after.”