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WCS Care case study

This case study exemplify one or more of the Principles of Excellence that was identified during the research and engagement work of the Commission on the Role of housing in the future of care and support.

Model of housing or service: Care home

Principles of excellence: adopting innovationstrong leadership, culture and workforce

Introduction and overview

Set up in 1992, WCS Care is a registered charity which currently runs 13 care homes across Warwickshire, England. Eleven homes offer long-term residential and short-term respite care for older people and people living with dementia or a range of different needs. Two further homes offer respite and long-term residential care for people with physical disabilities or long-term conditions.

The care offered in WCS Care homes is rooted in its core values:

  • Play – interact, be creative, be light-hearted, enjoy!
  • Make someone’s day – notice, know people, make a positive impact through a simple act
  • Be there – listen, connect, focus on the other person
  • Choose your attitude – take responsibility for yourself; make a choice about how you’re going to be today

All staff are introduced to these values, which encourage them to be themselves and look beyond essential care needs to make sure residents find pleasure in every day. In 2017, WCS Care was the first care provider in England to have half of its homes (six) recognised as ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission.

WCS Care
We believe every day should be a day well lived.

One senior member of staff told us,

CQC Report, 2020
came here because of the values, make someone's day, play, choose your attitude, be there. I make sure all staff are invested into these values every single day.

Improving outcomes through design, leadership and culture

Castle Brook, one of the newest WCS Care homes which opened in 2016 – situated in the town of Kenilworth – benefits from being near a vibrant community with shops, pubs, restaurants, a bus route, and a castle. The home offers respite care, short stays and long-term care for older people and people with dementia.

Designed as six households, each household has its own communal open-plan lounge, dining area and kitchen, where people can make their own snacks and drinks, and staff will always be on hand to prepare hot refreshments if requested.

All rooms are tastefully decorated with en suite facilities, a personalised front door and have windows that overlook the treetops and brook.

Recognising the importance of people being able to stay together, companion rooms are also available at Castle Brook for couples or relatives wanting to stay together.

There is also a café, cinema, shop, launderette, spa bath and beauty salon offering unisex hairdressing and manicures.

Initially, both parents went into Castle Brook. They were delighted to be together in one suite, and the care and love they received were excellent.

The culture of WCS Care homes encourages residents to be active and engaged, with support from lifestyle coaches and care staff, and this is enabled both by the thoughtful design of Castle Brook and the way in which days are organised. Outside is a large garden with a specially designed cycle path for a side-by-side bicycle for two, varied planting which residents and staff take care of, and plenty of places to relax and enjoy the great outdoors.

Ed Russell, Chief Executive
At WCS Care we pride ourselves on keeping the gap between the bedside and the boardroom as small as possible.

Improving outcomes through innovation

A feature of WCS Care that stood out is that it is not afraid of trying something new, and is prepared to keep asking questions and try new ways of working that it thinks will improve its residents’ lives. When considering introducing something new it focuses on three questions:

  • Does it give people more choice and independence?
  • Does it improve people’s dignity?
  • Does it make their life more fun?

If it does, then WCS Care will give it a try. It might start off small, but if something works, it shares good practice across its homes so everyone can benefit from it. Equally, if it doesn’t, it shares the learning.

WCS Care works with a number of partners in innovation, whose products and services help to support their model of care.

It introduced an Innovation Hub at Castle Brook several years ago which was a unique space full of working mock-ups of the latest technology and concepts that WCS Care already uses or is set to use in future developments. It featured a recreated bedroom with a night-time acoustic monitoring system that automatically alerts staff to unusual sounds so they can respond quickly when needed.

WCS Care was the first care home provider in England to install this acoustic monitoring system. As the alerts are constantly monitored, this reduces the need to do hourly night-time door checks (which are the usual practice in care homes) and, as a result, residents are more able to have uninterrupted sleep – which has a positive effect on wellbeing.

Christine Asbury, WCS Care's former Chief Executive
The Innovation Hub lets us share our experience. While this may not suit everyone, it does leave people feeling inspired about how they could do things differently – and of course we're learning from our visitors too.

The Hub also showcased the use of electronic care planning, which is used in all WCS Care homes. Using handheld devices, staff capture the care they deliver in the moment quickly and effectively, building a detailed picture of each resident’s care. Relatives’ Gateway software is also used which provides a window for relatives into the care their loved one is receiving. Relatives can access the care notes 24/7 from anywhere in the world. Castle Brook, like WCS Care’s other new build homes, also has an advanced nurse call system that alerts staff through handheld devices rather than by disruptive call bells.

Clare, daughter of resident
At home, my mother would not eat. Since she has been in Castle Brook, she hasn't missed a meal. The staff keep my mother busy, and the activity coordinators are excellent.

Castle Brook has also introduced a new dining experience for residents. The home doesn’t have a central catering kitchen and, instead, hosts and hostesses cook food in the ovens of each household kitchen. Preparing food in this way means staff are able to enhance residents’ dining experience in a number of ways – not least of which is the fact that people can smell food being cooked, stimulating their appetite and preparing them to eat. They can also offer a wider choice of hot meals at each sitting and be more flexible about when residents have their main hot meal of the day.

WCS Care installed circadian rhythm lighting into the Hub that mimics daylight in the day and creates biological darkness at night, keeping the body in a solid circadian cycle, helping to improve sleep and daytime alertness, which has positive impacts on people with dementia. Ed Russell, CEO reports, ‘Within eight weeks of installing the system, we saw a noticeable uplift in people’s wellbeing on the household, using dementia mapping as a measurement – with the vast majority of people moving into content or very happy moods’.

The Hub provided an opportunity for WCS to share its approach with, and learn from the experiences of, other providers. The systems used could be seen in action in a real-life setting and new innovations could be tried out before rolling them out to other WCS homes.

Ed Russell, WCS Care’s Chief Executive
It’s a really exciting time at WCS Care as we continue to push the boundaries of innovation and creativity in care to ensure every day is well lived.

WCS Care worked with Coventry University on a number of PhD studies to investigate the impact of a range of factors on the health and wellbeing of residents. Studies covered a range of topics including sleep, nutrition, the benefits of time outside, self-management and responsive care, and the use of robotics and digital technologies. This research could help care providers develop their approaches to care ensuring residents enjoy life to its fullest.

Woodside Care Village

WCS Care has taken the learning from Castle Brook a step further in its latest home
– Woodside Care Village in Warwick.

Opened in 2019, it’s home for up to 72 adults including people living with dementia and people who are deaf. Woodside Care Village challenges traditional care home design – while encompassing the organisation’s values – and features 12 family-sized households of between five and seven people, each with open-plan living, dining and kitchen areas, as well as en suite bathrooms for everyone.

Outside, there’s an open-air plaza with a shop, launderette, hair salon, café and community zone, as well as mini golf, outdoor gym and cycle track for a side-by-side bike-for-two. The plaza is surrounded by an external walkway that links each household to the wider care home community and facilities, replacing traditional long corridors, offering everyone the opportunity of ‘outdoors upstairs’ where they can be in the fresh air every day.

The home incorporates a number of innovative technology and non-technology-based solutions that are contributing to the health and wellbeing of residents. From night-time acoustic monitoring and mobile care monitoring for care planning to therapy table tennis and a care home community musician. Woodside Care Village is one of the first care homes in the country to install circadian lighting throughout, which mimics daylight in the day and creates biological darkness at night, keeping the body in a solid circadian cycle, helping to improve sleep and daytime alertness, and has positive impacts on people with dementia.


WSC has won several awards. In 2017 Care Group of the Year and Best Innovation in Care at the Caring UK Awards. They were also shortlisted for two Charity Times magazine awards, Charity of the Year: with an income of over £10 million and Best use of technology. In 2016 the then Chief Executive of WCS Care, Christine Asbury was awarded the Making a Difference Award by 3rd Sector Care. Christine was recognised as ‘an outstanding Chief Executive who has demonstrated effective leadership which has significantly influenced outcomes for people who use their services, their families and the staff’.

Conclusion and key learning

The Commission selected WCS Care to highlight the positive impact of having a set of shared values that made sense to staff and also to people living there and their families. The values are modelled by the senior management team, and the physical environment and design of the homes facilitate and enable these values to enhance the everyday lives of the people that live there. The agreed core values – play, make someone’s day, be there and choose your attitude – permeate the environment of WCS Care homes.

This, coupled with a ‘can-do’ attitude which is not afraid to try new things, has resulted in a forward-thinking approach to care, incorporating innovations which are seen to improve the daily lives of residents and their families. The Innovation Hub is a practical model of sharing best practice and supporting learning that could be of value to other care providers.