Our planet, our health: Sustainability at the Centre

Each year, World Health Day focuses on a key topic impacting global health and wellbeing. This year’s theme, ‘our planet, our health’, explores the single biggest threat to international health and wellbeing – the climate crisis

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Millbrook Healthcare retains contract for Surrey Community Equipment Services

Millbrook Healthcare Ltd has announced that they were successful in retaining the contract to deliver community equipment services in Surrey, for an additional nine years from 4 April 2022, following the conclusion of a comprehensive tender process.

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Supporting young people

We’re delighted that we registered with the government’s Kick Start programme, which provides funding to create jobs for 16-24-year-olds who are on universal credit and at risk of long-term employment.

The scheme closes for applications on 31 March 2022 and we’re pleased to announce that we’ve successfully recruited four people to the scheme in trainee warehouse and trainee customer services roles, two at Somerset WCS and two at Herts WCS.

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ITEC Awards 2022

Essex TEC - winners of the Transformation Award


We’re delighted to announce that our Essex TEC service, which we manage in partnership with Essex County Council and Provide CIC, has won the ITEC 2022 Transformation Award.

This is huge for us, and the Essex TEC team and we’d like to express our gratitude to the entire cross-community team for this extraordinary result.

Our Essex TEC centre went live on 1 July 2021 and has provided us with an opportunity to move into other areas of TEC, embrace new technology, and ultimately better support our service users in line with our vision to enhance the health and wellbeing of our communities through exceptional services and solutions.

Together we will make a difference. 


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Our first virtual Menopause Café

We were excited to hold our first virtual Menopause Café on Tuesday (14 Dec), aimed at offering our colleagues an opportunity to talk about the menopause and share information and experiences.

Rachel Weiss had the idea for Menopause Cafe in 2017, inspired by Kirsty Wark’s BBC programme “Menopause and Me” and the Death Cafe model she had already been part of  www.menopausecafe.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Yours-314-menoapuse-cafe.pdf

Menopause Cafes are run across the UK, with no pre-set agenda, to discuss topics chosen by the participants on the day.  

The principles of the Menopause Cafe are:

  • No intention of leading participants to any conclusion, product or course of action
  • An open, respectful and confidential space where people can express their views safely
  • Opportunity to bring along a refreshing drink and cake, if you'd like!

Menopause Cafes are not:

  • Support groups
  • An opportunity to give people information about the menopause, regardless of how useful or important this information is. Instead, it’s an opportunity to create time and space to discuss the menopause without expectations or experts. For this reason, having speakers and information materials available is actively discouraged. 
  • A method for community engagement, research, or consultation.

Our virtual Menopause Café was launched and hosted by our Group Director of Clinical, Quality and Governance, Annette Cairns, and was well supported by a variety of colleagues and it was great to get positive feedback from so many colleagues, including the below:

  • Great session!
  • I would like to say a big thank you Annette for sharing your experience and bringing this topic up.
  • Really useful. thank you!
  • Great meeting, thank you x
  • Nice to be working for a company who is already taking positive action to support employees!
  • Really lovely and supportive to share experiences.
  • Thanks so much!
  • Some great and open discussion and information sharing for all.

Our colleagues’ health and wellbeing are important to us, so we plan to hold these events regularly.

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Dorset HIA at the National Healthy Housing Awards 2021

We’re delighted to announce that on Monday (13 December) two of our colleagues from the Dorset Accessible Homes Service were presented awards by Foundations, the national governing body for Home Improvement Agencies in England.

Emma Carter won the Occupational Therapist of the Year Award.
    Sally Brock, received the Commendation of Excellence Award for Caseworkers. 
    National Healthy Housing Awards 2021 logo
    Dorset Accessible Homes Service logo

    The annual awards are open to the national network of nearly 200 home improvement agencies (HIAs).

    The awards event was held at the National Football Museum, Manchester, as a celebration of the outstanding work carried out daily to support people across the country to live comfortably in their homes. 

    In previous years, Dorset’s HIA has been awarded HIA of the year, Highly Commended HIA, The Innovation for the year – and last year our colleague Paul Foot won Technical Officer of the year, as he was unable to collect his award last year, because of Covid, he was also presented his award on Monday. 

    Richard Pearce, Dorset HIA’s Service Centre Manager, said: “I am proud of the passion our colleagues show whilst providing the highest possible level of service for our clients, in achieving their adaptations."

    “The past and current awards are testimony to the outstanding hard work and devotion given daily by our colleagues, which reflects the excellent service provided by Dorset HIA on behalf of Dorset Council.”

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    Social value and service delivery

    Social value describes the delivery of economic, social, and environmental benefits. It looks beyond financial gain to holistically improve the Quality of Life of our Service Users.

    Developing social value initiatives builds deeper relationships with the people we work with, putting Service Users right at the heart of service delivery and promoting more resilient, connected communities.

    “Social value is at the heart of everything we do at Millbrook Healthcare,” says Wendy Covell, Group People Director. “It is reflected in the values and behaviours of our colleagues and helps us make a positive contribution to the communities we work in. We are proud to make a difference to our service users’ lives and are focused on creating a diverse workplace where social responsibility is intrinsic in our way of working.”

    What’s the value of social value?

    Social value isn’t just about doing the right thing. It’s about creating real, measurable value through a systematic approach. Under the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, organisations have a legal obligation to consider economic, social, and environmental impact when procuring services.

    We know that when we engage with communities and support their economic, social, and environmental development, we build a better understanding of what our Service Users need to live independent, safer, fulfilled lives. 

    Delivering social value

    At Millbrook Healthcare, social value forms a fundamental part of service delivery. For each contract, we create a local Social Value Plan. Our Board sets and monitors social value commitments using the National TOMs Framework. Annual social value reports measure outcomes, making sure we meet our targets.

    We measure our impact through feedback and Social Care Related Quality of Life scores, which tell us about Service User wellbeing as well as their individual medical outcomes.

    Across our business, our social value activities include:

    Community engagement. We proactively connect with local voluntary, community and faith groups who provide key insights about Service User groups. We partner with community outreach programmes and signpost people to befriending services like the Silver Line and Age UK to reduce isolation. Our ‘pop up’ assessment vehicle improves accessibility for rural communities.

    Supporting charities. Through the ‘Millbrook Foundation’, we offer each colleague two paid days per year for voluntary work. During COVID-19, colleagues have volunteered at local vaccination centres. We also donated over 40,000 facemasks to local charities. We fundraise for local and national charities, hosting events like Macmillan Coffee mornings at our service centres. We also promote awareness of campaigns via social media.

    Two photos showing the inside and outside of the Millbrook Healthcare Mobile Assessment vehicle

    Recycling. Our Environmental Policy sets out our commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible. We donate unwanted equipment to PhysioNet for global distribution. Mattresses are recycled into carpet underlay. Our initiatives help maintain our Zero Waste to Landfill award. During Recycle Week 2021 (20th – 26th September) we created a poster to celebrate and promote recycling which was shared company-wide.

    Environmentally friendly premises. We turn off lights and appliances when not in use, and work with renewable energy providers. Printers only turn on when activated by motion sensors, reducing electricity use and saving between £3,312 and £9,040 annually.

    Sustainable, ethical, local supply chain. We only work with suppliers who have strong sustainability policies and procedures. We use local SMEs for cleaning and vehicle maintenance. We source equipment and services from local suppliers. Our online Self-Assessment Tool signposts self-funders to local, accredited retailers for private purchase, supporting local economic development.

    A poster titled Reduce. Reuse. Recycle! Displaying Millbrook Healthcares latest reclycling stats.

    Local employment. We operate a ‘local first’ recruitment policy. We collaborate with local job centres, schools, and colleges to provide work experience for key groups, e.g., long term unemployed. This provides local jobs, ensures the local community is represented in our workforce, and increases employability.

    Fair, representative recruitment. We’re a Disability Confident employer and equal opportunities employer. When recruiting new employees, we target under-represented groups to support diversity. For example, we’ve partnered with Helping Heroes to create a dedicated training academy for ex-service personnel. We support diversity through Equality and Diversity training and respecting cultural and religious holidays.

    Colleague wellbeing. We pay all colleagues above the living wage. We invest in colleague wellbeing through our Employee Assistance Programme. We have Mental Health First Aiders across the company, and a company Doctor/Nurse. On our ‘Millbrook & Me’ platform, colleagues can access benefits and company discounts. Continued Professional Development is supported through our Learning and Development Fund, which covers the cost of courses to support career progression.

    Reducing carbon emissions through travel reduction. Real-time driver monitoring software from Lightfoot has reduced our harmful emissions by 15%. All our vans meet Euro 6 emissions standards and are regularly serviced and maintained to optimise performance. We’re currently piloting electric vehicles and will introduce them to our fleet to improve air quality. Cycle-2-Work and car-pooling schemes further reduce travel. Our advanced routing and scheduling software combines activities, for example completing deliveries and collections in the same area during one journey, improving efficiency and lowering our environmental impact.

    ‘Digital first’ approach. Use of online tools like Microsoft Teams have reduced business mileage by 30%. Through this one measure alone, we expect to reduce carbon emissions by 580 tonnes CO2e.

    If you want to find out more about how social value is positively impacting service delivery, you can contact us via our website or social media.

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    What do clinicians look for when assessing Service Users for Community Equipment Services?

    Holistic, considerate, comprehensive assessments are vital to prescribing the right equipment solution first time, considering individual care pathways and lifestyles to meet changing personal needs.


    Millbrook Healthcare clinicians are trained to look beyond clinical need at how equipment will improve day-to-day life and help service users achieve their goals.

    Millbrook clinicians Jayne Brewer and Tracy Frowen have a combined 35 years of experience completing clinical assessments in a variety of environments accessing Community Equipment Services (CES), helping users access the best equipment for them.

    “Equipment helps service users achieve their own personal goals and maintain independence in key areas of daily living such as washing, mobility, eating, and drinking… Things that most of us take for granted,” says Tracy Frowen.

    “Some of the most important things to be aware of when assessing a service user are the functional impairments which prevent them from being independent, what tasks are important to them, and how they want to achieve those tasks,” says Jayne Brewer.

    For example, someone with restricted mobility who wants to actively participate in their community but doesn’t have private transport would need a reliable, durable, and easily manoeuvred mobility aid for use on public transport.

    It’s also important to assess the environment and the people who will share the same space as the user.

    “Occupational Therapists look at the whole environment when risk assessing and thinking about what solution would work best, including the social interactions with other family members and carers, cultural implications that may prevent the use of equipment, and the physical environment,” explains Tracy.

    “If equipment is mobile, clinicians need to consider the flooring in the person’s house, threshold doorways and any other obstructions,” says Jayne. “Clinicians also need to ensure there is enough space for equipment in order not to create further risks.”

    For example, when using a mobile hoist, carers need adequate space around the bed to operate the equipment. There needs to be appropriate flooring on which to move the hoist, and enough space to store it when not in use.


    Empathy is a key skill for clinicians, who need to be able to understand challenges from the user’s perspective. Assessments should respect users’ specific communication needs and provide accessibility.

    Considerate assessments enable users to make choices. Often, clinical decisions are made jointly with the user, with input from their prescriber or carer/family member.

    “We have to understand what users want to achieve and balance that with what they need to achieve to be safe and not put others at risk,” says Jayne. “This takes into account restrictions around certain pieces of requested equipment, like cost and availability.”

    Risk management forms a key part of every assessment to keep users safe and find pre-emptive solutions.

    “Sometimes users have to take risks to remain independent, and clinicians have to help minimise those risks,” says Jayne. “Clinicians are continually completing risk assessments and attempting to reduce risks for the service users, family and carers.”

    User-focused assessments look beyond equipment, avoiding risk through small, easy changes like removing rugs and trip hazards in the home or prescribing additional equipment. Someone with poor sitting balance, for example, may struggle to use a bath board when washing. Clinicians discuss concerns during their assessment, prescribing non-obtrusive aids (like a grab rail) to make sure equipment is used safely. Risk management also considers the needs of people accessing the same facilities.

    “An example might be a raised toilet seat for the user, specifically for their height,” says Tracy. “This would need to be removed for others and put back into place afterwards. This means that demonstrations on how to fit equipment would need to be shown to all members of the household.”


    Clinicians are responsible for demonstrating equipment use to the user, carers and family members, providing clear instructions in the required format (including easy read and braille) to support accessibility and understanding.  

    “We use technology too, such as mobile phone apps which sit alongside the equipment we put in place,” says Tracy. “This is very useful for people with learning difficulties who may find it easier to communicate non-verbally.”

    To help users get the most out of their equipment, clinicians carefully explain what has been recommended, and why. Involving family and carers can make individuals feel more comfortable and encourage equipment use.

    If a clinician is unsure how to address a particularly complex need, they can seek advice from Millbrook’s Clinical Lead, who will recommend suitable products based on the assessment, signposting to approved and often local retailers. Millbrook’s experienced National Clinical Team of eight Band 7/8 professionals also advise and support clinicians.

    “It may be that the clinician has tried standard stock equipment which has not been successful. The Clinical Lead could be involved to provide alternatives, working with one of our Recycled Specials Technicians to obtain information on what is available,” says Jayne.

    Looking forward

    In the past few years, clinical assessments have evolved into a single, integrated process to provide continuity of care and reassurance, considering all aspects of users’ lives.

    “The single assessment process means that the first clinician involved with the user completes an initial assessment of all areas, including daily activities, mobility, pressure care continence, medication and diet, rather than the user answering questions from several different professionals. Any area of concern can then be addressed by the specialist,” says Jayne.

    In future, assessments will become even more holistic through secure data sharing between health and social care organisations, leading to a single medical record that covers all medical, clinical and personal needs.

    Self-assessment tools are also giving users more control and choice while prescribers focus on more complex tasks.

    “We know the key to happier, healthier service users is to look at the whole picture and understand how they want to live their lives,” says Tracy. “This means that when we prescribe equipment solutions, we can be sure it will achieve their care outcomes while helping them feel more fulfilled.”

    To find out more about our Community Equipment Service and assessment process, visit https://millbrookhealthcare.co.uk/pages/community-equipment-services/.

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    Spotlight on Alex Gournay as part of Disability History Month

    Alex Gournay joined us in October as Community Health and Engagement Officer for the Hertfordshire wheelchair service. He has 10 years’ experience of working in the charitable advice sector and is looking at ways that our service can be improved, as well as looking at ways to help more wheelchair users can use their personal wheelchair budget to get the chair that meet all their needs.

    As it’s Disability History Month, Alex wanted to share his reflections on the history of his wheelchair, which also shows how wheelchairs and wheelchair provision has changed in that time.

    UK Disability History Month logo

    Alex’s wheelchair story.

    "I’ve been a wheelchair user for 25 years; in that time, I’ve used several different wheelchairs. The technology of wheelchairs has changed considerably in this time, year to year the change is subtle, looking back there’s been substantial change, mostly for the better.

    My condition is a progressive one, I was able to walk until I started secondary school in 1995, when I started to use a manual wheelchair. I was able to propel myself a small amount, but as my condition also affected my arms I had to be pushed for long distances. My first powerchair was bought by Whizz kids, and whilst it gave me independence, after the first 18 months it needed constant repairs, partly because it had plastic footplates that would break regularly when they were struck by the large doors at the entrance of every building of my school.

    At that time, I also used a prototype stair climbing wheelchair called the Mobility 2000 that my school had bought another pupil who was too scared to use it. My school didn’t have lifts, so this was the only way to access the upstairs classrooms.

    The chair needed great care and skill to use, and it took about 15 minutes to climb or descend a set of stairs, so I would miss the first and last 15 minutes of a lesson. I was enamoured with the chair when I first used it, but reflecting on it now, it seems absurd that such a complicated and risky method was considered easier than installing a lift. Many disabled people like myself see this the as a technological solution to a problem that requires a social solution based on understanding that much of the disadvantage of disability come from systemic barriers.

    My next powered wheelchair was an NHS one, the model was the Harrier Plus. This wheelchair had multiple problems and after four years’ wear and tear, I was ready for a new one. As there wasn’t much choice, I had the same model again, which served me through university, whilst studying for my degree. 

    Throughout there wasn’t any choice of features or colour, other than black. In my teenage years, this didn’t bother me as I tended to wear black most of the time anyway. The service flipped between NHS and contracted services during this time, but the service stayed the same as I had my wheelchairs replaced.  

    In 2012 I was supplied with an Invacare TDX SP Narrow Base, it was the first six-wheeled wheelchair I used and was a vast improvement of my previous four-wheeled models. The increase in manoeuvrability was freeing when moving around at home and I felt that the design considered that a wheelchair was something you lived in and is an extension of your bodily space, it’s not merely a piece of equipment. This chair served me well and was a vast improvement on previous ones.

    In 2016 I learnt to drive, using a van supplied by Motability, which was adapted so that I could drive whilst sat in my wheelchair using hand controls. This was made possible because of advances in car adaptations and unlike my previous wheelchairs, the TDX has been crash tested as part of its development.

    In late 2018 I asked for a reassessment of my needs, as whilst I was happy with my chair there had been considerable wear and tear, unlike previous occasions I self-referred to the service without getting a referral from another organisation.

    Following the assessment, I was supplied with an Invacare TDX SP2 narrow base, which was like my last chair, just with more features. This was because the TDX series has a modular design and it can be reconfigured to give tailored support for more people with a wider range of needs, it even has the capacity for mounting extra medical devices such as oxygen cylinders and ventilators. This versatility makes it easier for buying and sourcing parts.

    Finally, unlike previous occasions, I had more choice thanks to the introduction of personal wheelchair budgets (PWB). There are four options with PWB:

    1. You can take the chair the NHS offers you.
    2. You can pay the price difference between it and another model offered by the NHS.
    3. You can take a third-party option where you take the value of the chair and use it to purchase another chair outside the NHS range, though this involves taking responsibility for maintenance and the associated challenges.
    4. Accept the model offered by the NHS and ‘top up’ to add extra features. This was the option I took.

    The NHS was able to supply a seat recliner and a tilt, but not the option to raise the chair or accessories. A wheelchair is the way you present yourself to the world, so I wanted some colour trims and when I found out that it was possible to have a USB port to charge my phone, I wanted to customise it as far as possible.  As well as the charger and purple colouring, I added a seat riser, electric footrest risers and lights. I was able to fund the extra cost with assistance from a charity.

    I use the raise option sparingly, however it’s been crucial on some occasions, such as at the GP surgery where there’s a high counter in the reception area, so to bring myself to eye level. I feel more comfortable when walking in the winter, knowing that I can light my way. With the USB port I am never left with a flat phone, allowing me to do more on my own knowing I can call for assistance if needed. The whole process felt empowering, and when I received my powerchair I felt that finally the importance of my wheelchair was truly recognised.

    I’m not bound by my wheelchair; I’m freed by it. With Personal Wheelchair Budgets I think wheelchair services are acknowledging that a wheelchair is not just a piece of equipment, it’s part of you and the way you engage with the world."

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    We’re proud to support Purple Tuesday

    Today (2 Nov) we’re proud to support Purple Tuesday, which is about improving the customer experience for disabled people, which is at the heart of everything we do.

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