Michael Hurt has joined Sunrise Senior Living UK as Head of Memory Care. Having taken his position on 4th January 2021, Michael is now advising on all aspects of dementia care, including training for team members, enhancing dementia-friendly environments and supporting colleagues to deliver best practice in care. He is also set to lead on the introduction of new models of care to the benefit of residents across each of the organisation’s 25 care homes.
Michael’s ambition to work within the care sector can be traced back to when he was just three years old after he spent six weeks in hospital with a fractured femur. He later developed a specific interest in mental health as a teenager following the completion of a school project on this topic which, combined with spending time with his grandmother and growing fond of stories from older people, set in motion his desire to join the industry.
After qualifying as a nurse, Michael specialised in Old Age Psychiatry and has since remained in the industry for over 36 years. Over the course of his career, he has worked on wards, in day hospitals, in residential care homes for those living with dementia, and also as a community mental health nurse. He went on to qualify as a Specialist Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Independent Prescriber where he responded to urgent referrals, many of which were in care homes. Then, in 2009, Michael became a Commissioner of Dementia Services and was employed as Head of Older People and Dementia at Walsall Council and Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group.
Here, Michael developed and delivered new practices to improve the quality and responsiveness of existing services. His work went on to be recognised in eight prestigious national case studies, including in the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia, NICE, NHS England along with other requests to Chair and speak at national conferences. And, alongside his work, Michael has taught at three universities as well as to a variety of audiences, from volunteers and members of the public, to medical staff.
Michael says that his vast experience has allowed him to be the “calm one in the room” and offer valuable support to others. This experience also means that he is rarely surprised and has developed the emotional resilience to not worry which, he says, rubs off on others and helps to improve the confidence of his colleagues. Asked what he loves about working in care, Michael says his last few roles have allowed him to make significant changes which have made demonstrable improvements to the lives of those with dementia, as well as their carers and the staff supporting them.
Then, after a brief period in retirement, Michael was shortlisted for the Head of Memory Care role and for another similar role at a different care home provider, both with head offices in Beaconsfield. However, after speaking to Annie Webber, Sunrise’s Senior Director of Care and Quality, he says he knew that he wanted to work with her and the wider organisation. She explained that she didn’t want a “Yes” person, rather she wanted someone with practical experience that was comfortable to work on the ground with team members – a description Michael saw in himself.
Although not easily amazed after spending more than three decades in care, he says he has been thoroughly impressed by the leadership shown across all levels at Sunrise. Speaking of his initial experiences of Sunrise, Michael said: “I have met some very skilled team members working in dementia care and they are really dedicated to delivering any further improvements in the quality of care. There are also some very good working relationships between operational and quality team members, and I am surrounded by exceptional subject matter experts which I can learn from.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to the wider social care sector, but Michael stresses that the difficulties of this crisis have mainly affected team members and residents in care homes, as well as their family members. He says that the impact of care home closures and social distancing measures are likely to have a long-lasting impact on mood, mobility and confidence. He also believes that the sector and society more widely are still learning from this difficult experience.
Looking ahead to his tenure, Michael says that although Sunrise are industry leaders, he would like to focus on further improving the understanding and confidence of all team members involved in dementia care. He says that he has already met a few team members who have a first-rate understanding of dementia but would benefit from improved confidence in what they do. Michael is also excited to introduce environmental improvements and new approaches, while ensuring that any changes are supported by evidence and can deliver a demonstrable improvement to the lives of residents.
Finally, asked what his aims and ambitions are for Sunrise, Michael said, “this bit is easy. I want Sunrise and Gracewell to be the best dementia care provider.”