PEOPLE lie at the heart of Leuchie House, writes Mairi O’Keefe
A recent visit from Fergus Ewing MSP, the Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, highlighted Leuchie House’s unique position in straddling both the health and hospitality sectors – a position that throws up unique challenges for an independent charity.
Our aim is to offer the highest quality nursing and clinical support to guests and carers who desperately need respite breaks, but with all the comfort and customer care of a country house hotel. This is a tall ask of our dedicated and professional staff.
We have been fortunate in being supported in this aim by one of Edinburgh’s iconic 5-star hotels, The Balmoral. In a partnership that has seen Leuchie named as the hotel’s designated Charity of the Year for the second year running, a programme of training and mentorship has been used alongside our own bespoke Leuchie Standards training programme to enhance the service.
It is not easy to explain where Leuchie fits in terms of the hospitality and tourism industry, but when representatives from The Balmoral visited for the first time, they immediately understood the concept and have been on board ever since, supporting our vision of top quality care and comfort underpinned by expert medical care.
Visits from Ministers across the range of sectors also ensure the people who make funding and policy decisions have a chance to understand the service by experiencing it through meeting our guests and staff and watching just how the house operates.
The support we enjoy from various departments in the Scottish Government is an indication that Leuchie is hitting all the right targets in relation to the integration of health and social care and by being involved in cross-party groups at the parliament, we can ensure Leuchie remains at the forefront of this agenda, meeting all the needs conditions we look after.
The reason that Leuchie is so vital to this agenda is that it is the only venue in Scotland and the north of England offering this mixture of health and social care, which means that the breaks we offer – as many as 6,000 respite days per year – help keep people with long-term conditions and their carers to keep going for longer.
If they do not get a break, their situation may become critical and they will need to take up a hospital bed, with the NHS costs that would entail.
Leuchie House looks after people with a variety of long-term physical conditions including Multiple Sclerosis, stroke, Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy and Huntington’s.
A crucial part of the service enjoyed by guests who may have mobility issues is their ability to choose a range of trips and activities when they are at Leuchie and we work closely with other charities and tourism bodies, such as Euan’s Guide and VisitScotland, to ensure accessibility is high on the agenda. Choice is very important to our guests as they will have experienced a loss of independence as their condition deteriorates.
One of the reasons we work so closely with tourism organisations is that our staff and guests are constantly experiencing the attractions and venues being marketed by the industry and we are in a unique position when it comes to providing feedback on accessibility and other issues.
This constant crossover between health and hospitality does mean that Leuchie House relies on recruiting very special people to work in such a specialised environment. For many of our care staff, one of the attractions is the fact that they are able to go out on trips and outings with guests as part of their everyday job. Accompanying a guest to the Tattoo or a show at the Edinburgh Festival is not a bad way to spend a shift at work!
Our nursing staff are fully trained in all the complex medical conditions we see at Leuchie and we encourage all our staff to aspire to further training so that we keep the best staff for ourselves as they progress in their careers.
• Mairi O’Keefe MBE, Chief Executive, Leuchie House. www.leuchiehouse.org.uk