Askham Village Community, in Cambridgeshire, is enabling patients to share their own experiences of care and help to shape examples of best practice. 

Family-run Askham has grown from a care home for the elderly into a community of five specialist homes since being taken over by the Goga family in the 1980s.

Today it provides care and neurorehabilitation, as well as specialist dementia and end of life care.

Aliyyah-Begum Nasser, who runs the facility, says: “A big thing for us is resident involvement and we have just delivered our first training by a resident, which was just brilliant. To have a brain injury survivor talk about what it means to them is fantastic and I believe it is unique, I’ve never come across it before.

“To hear directly from the person what it actually feels like is really quite special. We’re looking at doing a lot more of that, getting our residents way more involved in the delivery of training, as well as in our recruitment.”

Askham, in Doddington, has 100+ beds, half of which are for patients with long-term neurological conditions, including Huntington’s and Parkinson’s, and spinal cord and brain injuries. 

Aliyyah, her sister and her parents who built up Askham, all play a role in running the facility. A PPE graduate from Oxford University, Aliyyah left a corporate career in business consulting in London to take on the family business.

As well as learning from patient perspectives, engaging with the wider world is also important to Aliyyah and her team.

She says: “It is obviously a big thing to engage families, but as we are in a village and part of a community, we do want to involve local people too. We take our residents out into the village quite a lot and many of the people living in the vicinity don’t really understand or know much about brain injury, or indeed about what we do at Askham. We are keen to open up what we do and how we do it and work with people.

“I think we’re quite lucky because we’ve got all of the homes on one site, rather than being spread across the country. So we really can create that community environment and then engage with the local village in the way that we do.”

While each of the five homes which form Askham Village Community offers distinct services, interaction is encouraged between them as much as possible.

The seven-acre site has seen significant investment to create water features and landscaped gardens around the homes, to offer an outdoor environment residents can enjoy spending time.

“Our whole ethos is based around community. Life is about interacting and mingling with lots of different people and diversity is a real strength. The staff in each home are trained appropriately and the services are distinct, but then we come together for shared activities and for fairs, so people can socialise, and that can be quite powerful.

“You could have 25-year-old brain injury patients interacting with older ladies playing bingo, and it’s just lovely, it’s real life that people across the generations should come together. Conversations are just focused on normality between people enjoying life, and the fact that is allowed to happen is another unique feature for us.

“As this is a family business, we have always made Askham about the family ethos and family values. It’s about the people here and how we can use what we have to better impact people’s lives and their quality of life, and that is what we are committed to achieving.”