Geoffrey Cox, Employer of the Year as Managing Director of Southern Healthcare.

I was a Solicitor for 25 years in total and whilst it was a rewarding career, after 20 years, I wanted to do something completely different, something that I thought could be more meaningful and also in which hoped I could make an impact.

On the Millennium New Years eve, I decided I would go into Nursing Homes and set up Southern Healthcare, which has four Devon Nursing Homes. Now, looking back over 23 years, I wouldn’t change a thing as I feel ultimately fulfilled as I reflect on my journey.

In late 2019, I also became the CEO of the Eden Alternative UK. Eden, is a global network, across 22 countries over five continents and is primarily a ‘philosophy of care’ that Southern Healthcare had adopted and it believes that the predominant post-war ‘medicalised model’ of elderly care is not sufficiently broad to meet the needs, aspiration and ambitions of todays’ older generation.

Eden is a ‘culture innovation’ programme and addresses the above challenge by focusing upon wellbeing. It addresses the risks of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom by developing environments of loving companionship, partnership working and thriving spontaneity. It draws on Rogerian person centredness, appreciative leadership and organisational team building.

Within Eden, these aspirations catapult team members to centre stage and believe that with a strong group ethic, effective support for the team and individual staff members’ wellbeing, an organisation can achieve outstanding results.

Southern Healthcare became a member of Eden after seeing the programme in action in 2009 in New Zealand. Every year since, Southern Healthcare has trained more members of the team in the Eden Alternative programme, and as a result the momentum of innovation has built up over those years, including through the pandemic (when the course transferred to being online).

When one of the two founders of Eden UK sadly passed away unexpectedly in 2019, I offered to run Eden in the UK, and after the pandemic, the Eden Alternative is growing again across the globe.

The Eden programme started in New York in 1994, developed by an American geriatrician Dr Bill Thomas, and has been growing ever since, primarily in the elderly care sector, residential care, supported living and care at home. As a young GP, in an outstanding New York Nursing Home, Dr Thomas came to treat a resident for a condition he knew about well, but when she asked for help as she was feeling lonely, he didn’t know what to say. It struck Dr Thomas that many residents seemed to experience loneliness, or feelings or boredom, and that, he felt, had to change. With his wife and the help of others, together they wrote the Eden programme to do that, and it is as relevant today as it was then.

Our experience has been sustained progress upon the Eden principles. We have faced challenges like everyone else and the austerity years were tough. However, we believed the Eden philosophy helped sustain an extraordinary teamwork ethic, and one which I describe regularly as determined, dedicated and selfless. As Southern Healthcare, we have attained many national awards over the years, including Care Home of The Year twice, Care Team of The UK and this year – Employer of The Year at the GB Care Awards. We would not have achieved this without having applied the Eden principles consistently.

Here’s to paving the way for extraordinary teamwork in care!