Elaine Hollerhead’s Profile
I initially trained as an Occupational Therapist (OT) at St Loyes School of Occupational Therapy in Exeter.
On qualifying I took a rotational post at Crawley Hospital consolidating experience acquired during student placements in orthopaedics, general medicine elderly care and short stay psychiatry. I then worked in London as a senior clinician at Kings College Hospital and also The Kings & Guys Neurosurgical and Neurological Unit, Maudsley Hospital. The latter required great use of initiative and innovation as the Unit was a UK resource for patients with extreme manifestations of neurological conditions.
For social and personal reasons, I returned to the West Country and spent several years employed by Bristol City Council as a Senior OT clinician and OT Team Manager covering the south and east areas of the city. This was my first foray into Housing Adaptations and an opportunity to use the medical knowledge and experience I had gained in previous NHS posts to maximise client independence and, by working collaboratively with social workers architects charities GPs and multi-disciplinary teams, to resolve complex housing issues within diverse communities.
The offer of a senior OT Community post lured me back to the NHS. Initially based within a health centre I was able to work alongside not only GPs but also Health Visitors, District and Community Nursing teams, and hospital and local authority multidisciplinary teams. During this time ‘Community’ morphed into ‘Primary Health Care’. I developed specific interest and expertise in Neurology and Palliative Care and was appointed as OT and Physio representative on the Avon Somerset and Wiltshire Cancer Services Group assisting in improving patient care and developing new cancer care pathways.
A one year secondment to the ‘Agenda for Change’ program as a member of The Job Evaluation Team was an incredibly rewarding experience giving me huge insight into the roles and responsibilities of NHS employees from Directors to admin staff, a tenacity to fight against injustice and to promote recognition and equality.
Whilst acting -up as OT Team Manager I successfully negotiated with and secured Macmillan funding for a three-year Band 8 OT clinical post, an area resource identifying areas for improvement and devising solutions to improve patient care.
I also developed an effective Workload Weighting System for the OT Team.
Regrettably the Primary Care Trust failed to implement either project. In 2011 disillusioned by impossible workloads, and the political focus on achieving impossible targets at the expense of client care, I decided to resign from the NHS and to become an Independent Practitioner.
At the same time my mother was diagnosed with early stage dementia and there was a possibility she might come to live with me. I was acutely aware that equipment and adaptations provided by the NHS and Local Authority, although functional, are clinical ugly and undignified. The thought my mother and my home being subjected to these filled me with horror!
Interior Design has been a major hobby throughout my adult life. In 2008 I enrolled with The National Design Academy in Nottingham. In 2009 I was awarded their prestigious diploma in Professional Interior Design. So, I decided to form DESIGNATE- a unique health-focused company specialising in Inclusive Interior Design- where I could combine my OT knowledge to risk- assess high street and bespoke products for safe use, and my Interior Design Skills, to create exciting safe 21st Century environments with beautiful décor that can be enjoyed and used by everyone including those who are well or have minor or major health conditions. Put simply DESIGNATE ‘Makes functional fabulous’.
I am committed to enabling people to manage their health conditions with dignity and to achieve and enjoy 21st century aspirational living. My mantra is: ‘If I wouldn’t have it in my house it will not go in my client’s house’! Therefore, wherever possible I do not use disability-specific products in my designs but if these should be necessary, they are incorporated ‘invisibly’.
My clients are all self-funding and I involve them in every stage of the design process. Using a fully interactive 3D CAD software program we are able design together to create ‘normal living’ solutions that not only future-proof property but retain / enhance property value.
I believe passionately that people should be empowered with knowledge and given lifestyle choices. Many older people remain resigned to their final destinations being residential care homes or nursing homes, unaware of options such as multi-generational living, day care and live-in care. My aim is to work with, and introduce them to, the many agencies and professionals that can help them to plan for and achieve their chosen lifestyle