Home / Resources & Guidance / More than words – accolades, awards and published research achieved one year into Orchard Care Homes ‘Dementia Promise’

Orchard Care Homes, a leading care provider across the midlands and the north of England, launched its Dementia Promise last Christmas, an initiative aiming to be the catalyst for a shift in attitudes towards dementia care across the UK. Now, the company, which has twenty-three care homes, is reflecting on the first year of the initiative, which has included industry recognition, award wins, 5-star food and CQC Good ratings, celebrity goodwill messages and most recently, a published white paper on the impact of its services.

Orchard Care Homes Dementia Promise is an ongoing commitment to challenging the negativity and inequalities often experienced by people living with dementia in care homes. It consists of removing conscious and unconscious stigmas associated with dementia, such as encouraging others to stop using derogatory, blaming language and promoting genuine collaboration – including offering dedicated communication lines with dementia specialists, regardless of whether someone uses Orchard’s services or not. The company has already invested over half a million pounds into training, technology, tools and refurbishments designed to fulfil its promise and become recognised as the benchmark in specialist dementia care.


Orchard’s designated dementia community service, Reconnect, has doubled as part of the Dementia Promise, expanding from four established communities at the start of 2023 to eight by the start of 2024. These communities adopt a person-centric approach in a therapeutic environment, aiming to understand why people exhibit the behaviours they do and adapt support to reduce distress. More communities are already planned and the long-term ambition is for every home across the Orchard Care Homes portfolio to offer this service.

Over 900,000 people are estimated to be living with dementia in the UK making the provision of long-term specialist dementia nursing placements essential. Reconnect can provide local communities with a more holistic solution for people living with dementia, introducing environmental and care approach changes supported by specialist Dementia Nurses and Dementia Support Workers. A higher staff ratio within these communities ensures more social needs and engagement opportunities are made possible, which can reduce anxiety and distress.

Significantly, a white paper, Clinical impact of a multifaceted intervention aimed at decreasing distress in people living with dementia: evaluating the Reconnect program, was recently published by Frontiers, one of the most-cited and largest research publishers and open science platforms in the world.  Cheryl Baird, Director of Quality and Care at Orchard Care Homes, said of the report, “Our staff and the people within our communities already know how fantastic Reconnect services are, but we are thrilled that this has now been researched, recognised, and published by a respected and trusted body. The insights included in this evaluation are a clear demonstration of the impact our approach has made and the data has improved even further since this was submitted for review, which is additional encouragement that we are innovating in the right way.” Orchard Care Homes has been approached by a number of local authorities to provide training to other care providers and the company has agreed to share insight into their findings, successes and case studies as part of its Dementia Promise.

Over the past year since the launch of the Dementia Promise, Orchard Care Homes has recorded a decline in safeguarding referrals and use of psychotropic medications, plus a decline in polypharmacy. In addition, weight loss has been reduced, as has the pain burden through PainChek technology – which uses AI to help assess pain levels, even in those who are non-verbal, at the point of care. This state-of-the-art pain identification has reduced the total number of resident falls by 20%, and homes have recorded as much as a 91% reduction of significant injuries over the past year.

The CQC set a target for care homes to be entirely digitised by 2024, but Orchard Care Homes has achieved and maintained this already for two years. This commitment to technological advancement has been a leading aspect of the Dementia Promise and has contributed to impressive results, as well as industry recognition. In November 2023, Orchard Care Homes was named the winner of the LaingBuisson Award for Excellence in Large Residential Care. Judges assessed entrants for the prestigious award, now in its 18th year, for excellence in residential or nursing care and a keen focus on innovation and engagement with service users. On naming the company as the 2023 winner, the judges commented that the business’s ‘fantastic achievement in significantly reducing antipsychotic medications is commendable’.

As well as winning the category for Excellence in Large Residential Care, Orchard Cares Homes was also shortlisted for both Excellence in Training and Management Excellence by LaingBuisson. The company was also nominated for a host of other awards throughout 2023 including The Social Care Top30, Leaders in Care Awards, WAG awards  and the Great British Care Awards (progressing to the national finals in 2024 in two categories).

Orchard challenged homes to a garden make-over competition throughout the summer, with three winning locations rewarded with state-of-the-art, activities tables by The Digital Rainbow. The Orchard in Bloom competition brought out the competitive side of green-fingered enthusiasts living and working in each location and each home was given a £1000 budget to fund their garden glow-ups. This activity aimed to encourage residents, their families, and staff to work together in a sense of community pride and create spaces to reflect, reminisce, and grow. Some gardens incorporated coloured flower beds such as blue and purple, to represent living with dementia, whilst others were planted to include favourite flowers donated by staff and families, helping to evoke memories and forge re-connections.

All 23 of Orchard’s homes have been awarded FSA (Food Standards Agency) 5-star ratings over the past year, an accolade previously achieved group-wide in 2019. As well as holding high preparation and hygiene standards, chefs work alongside those who have specific dietary requirements to develop a menu that suits individual tastes and needs. Evidence suggests that a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and cereals, whilst being low in red meat and sugar, could help reduce dementia risks, so this is encouraged when possible. In addition, every home across the group also received ‘Good’ ratings by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the independent regulator of health and social care.


Language can influence how a person is seen, so over the past year, the company has deliberately adapted terms such as ‘communities’ as opposed to ‘units’ and eradicated words like ‘challenging’ and ‘aggressive’ from staff describing behaviours. This shift in tone has been reiterated through committed sessions delivered to every colleague across the care home group, in addition to three levels of bespoke, evidence-based training and ongoing investment in technology, recruitment, and care home environments.

Orchard Care Homes ensures people living within its Reconnect communities can choose to engage in normal life activities by providing access to gardens (including indoor garden rooms), craft and sewing rooms, and games rooms. These communities offer genuine inclusion and promote individual choice, with everyday routines such as cooking, baking and light housework taking place for people to choose what they participate in. For people with dementia, art, music and shared activities can be a powerful way to unlock positive feelings and help to connect with other people, so activities including armchair exercises, singalong sessions, performances by local artists and visits from local animals (in some locations, even Alpacas!) take place regularly to help enrich lives and make a positive impact on physical and mental well-being. Each home also aims to provide additional meaningful engagement through in-house hobbies and small external trips, based on the life stories and interests of those living in the home. This can range from taking people to the pub, supermarket, horse stables, external hairdressers and more.

Communicating about dementia care and shining a light on the individual successes and creativity of staff and people living within Orchard communities, has been another integral aspect of building on the Dementia Promise, showcasing to the wider industry and society what living in a positive care home environment can be like. This has included sharing personal stories and case studies including Doreen Davison, who received a surprise 100th Birthday video message from her singing idol, Irish superstar, Daniel O’Donnell MBE; and multiple residents who shared tips for a life full of love on national radio during Valentine’s Day. Colleagues have also ensured to help everyone feel part of important national milestones and events, including personalised Poppy Trees on Remembrance Sunday and home parties to mark the coronation of King Charles III, bringing back memories for many of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953.


Hayden Knight, CEO of Orchard Care Homes reflected, “It has been an incredible year since the launch of our Dementia Promise and we are all excited to see what 2024 brings. To have been awarded some of the most prestigious accolades in the care sector is a phenomenal achievement and to close the year with published research into the success of our methods just proves the importance and impact of our dedicated and passionate colleagues. To be acknowledged as fully compliant by the CQC, with zero breaches, is something all care home groups should aspire to and I am extremely proud of our team for all that has been achieved.

“Our Dementia Promise was not for one year and we do not lose sight that there is still much to be done to improve dementia care across the UK.  We will continue striving towards enhancing wellbeing by providing individualised, nurturing, and holistic care; focusing on identity, meaningful occupation and positive risk-taking. Our Dementia Promise seeks to enable life to be as normal as possible for those living within our communities and each person must be encouraged to thrive and live life to the full.”