Oak House (Exeter) Ltd

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Oak House (Exeter) Ltd's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Oak House (Exeter) Ltd is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Highlighting best practice
Oak House
One of our residents Ruth with a
University of Exeter student who
visits Oak House as part of the
University of Exeter Reading Project
Based in Exeter, Oak House is a place of care for sufferers
of dementia and their carers. The core principle of care
at Oak House is an empathic, psychosocial approach that
mirrors, as far as possible, the environment of the resident’s
own home. Sufferers from dementia, as part of the process,
have an altered view of the perception of reality. At Oak
House, the staff believe it is not productive to try and reorient
that perception to accord with the more normal view or to
try and suppress it with medication – both of which result in
frustration for the carer and the sufferer. Instead they adopt a
communicative strategy that allows for harmonious co-existence
between workers and residents. This is explained in greater
detail by its owner, Dianne Smyth.
The home
Oak House is a Grade II listed building close to the centre of Exeter. It looks like
a private house and feels like one too. When you enter Oak House there is quite
simply a sense of being welcomed into a warm, caring and loving environment.
Louis, the resident black cat, lies on a comfortable Parker Knoll chair by the lounge
window. He’s been living at Oak House for over ten years and is a very important
part of the resident’s day-to-day lives. He is sensitive to their feelings and will sit on
their laps or lie on their beds. Many of the residents have had their own animals in
their previous homes and appreciate the comforting presence of Louis.
»Owner: DianneSmyth
»Established in 2002
»Located in Exeter, Devon
»Services: Specialist residential
care for the elderly living with
»No. of employees: 26
»Committed to bringing in
people from the community
such as University of Exeter
students and pupils from
local schools, which benefits
generational respect and
Oak House
Sandy busy painting
The lounge and dining room are
furnished with traditional old-style but
very comfortable furniture, and the
walls display paintings and drawings,
many of which have been created by
the residents themselves. The smell
of food cooking wafts along the
hallways. All residents have access
to the conservatory, which leads on
to the large terrace overlooking the
garden. Whether our residents are
ambulant or need wheelchairs, access
to the outdoors is important for them.
Morning coffee and afternoon tea can
be taken outdoors, and many families
visiting enjoy just being in the garden
with their loved ones.
Physical and mental health
Just as the NHS has changed and
adapted over the past 70 years, so
too has the role of care and nursing
homes. Over the last 30 years there
have been very significant changes
in the level of care needing to be
provided. Wards for the long-term
elderly have been closed down,
now being replaced by care and
nursing homes. The recent closure
of community hospitals has added to
this change. We all know the concept
of “cradle to grave”, which the NHS
initially provided but increasingly no
longer does. The final chapter of many
elderly people’s lives will now be in a
care or nursing home.
Oak House has adapted to caring for
people with very complex physical and
mental health needs. Our approach has
been to give this care and support in as
non-clinical an environment as possible,
but ensuring essential equipment such
as profiling beds and hoists are available
when required. The expertise of staff and
ongoing training is essential to provide
this higher level of care. Oak House has a
team consisting of many qualified nurses
from throughout the world, such as
India and Italy, as well as staff members
with appropriate qualifications, including
degrees related to health and social
care. We also have staff working to gain
their NVQ Levels 3, 4 and 5. Training
and retaining these well-qualified staff
is key to high-quality care.
Oak House is very fortunate to have
the support of local GPs and, where
necessary, district nurses. We work
closely with the Primary Health Team,
enabling Oak House to continue to
meet the needs of, and provide a very
high standard of support for, both
the physical and mental health of our
A visit from Willow, a 17-year-old donkey
from The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth
Oak House
delivers the
ordinary in an
Highlighting best practice
Social care
Oak House in most cases is our
residents’ final home. The length of
the journey through the final chapter
of their lives varies considerably,
and along that journey will be many
changes in their abilities and health.
It is therefore essential that the social
environment and opportunities are
always flexible and can adapt to
Many families need assistance
themselves to stay involved in
supporting and being with their
loved ones. Oak House welcomes our
residents’ families and tries to ensure
they feel as comfortable coming to
Oak House as they would to their
loved one’s previous home. Any family
member can join us for meals, and
there’s always an endless supply of tea,
coffee, biscuits and homemade cakes
as well as other liquid refreshments
including the opportunity to share a
glass of wine or sherry. Some families
can take their relatives out for meals or
visits, but the majority will spend time
with their relative in Oak House. Family
support is emotionally important
for the residents, be it in person
On a weekly basis we have several
visits from an art teacher who engages
residents interested in art, painting and
drawing. She also does one-to-ones,
which involves taking individuals on
shopping trips or visits to a coffee shop
or pub. We have a drama therapist,
an aromatherapist and a musical
entertainer who visit weekly, as well
as the hairdresser. We also have an
activities organiser who works in-
house several days a week engaging
individual residents in conversation,
puzzles and games.
Oak House has been involved with the
University of Exeter Reading Project
for the last six years and welcomes
the students who spend a couple of
hours a week visiting our residents
and reading poetry or short stories
to them. This inter-generational mix
is beneficial to all and has featured
on both BBC television and BBC
Breakfast TV, as well as numerous
articles in various publications. Oak
House even produced its own poetry
book consisting of poems composed
by various residents that reflect their
previous and current life experiences.
Soul midwifery
Just as a midwife brings a baby safely
into the world at the beginning of
life, soul midwifery at the end of life
can help ensure a good death. There
are 12 “principles of soul midwifery”
to which soul midwives adhere –
principles to which we also adhere.
A good death is an extraordinarily
moving and sacred experience. At Oak
House we have always supported the
individual needs of the dying person
and have ensured that they feel loved;
we have equally given support to
families who may be afraid of death
and the dying process. To be present
at and able to support a dying person
and their loved ones is truly both a
humbling experience and a privilege.
Oak House is
first and
foremost each
May being read to by
another University of
Exeter student


This article was sponsored by Oak House (Exeter) Ltd. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister