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Digging deep: how organisational culture affects care home residents' experiences



Organisational culture of institutions providing care for older people is increasingly recognised as influential in the quality of care provided. There is little research, however, that specifically examines the processes of care home culture and how these may be associated with quality of care. In this paper we draw from an empirical study carried out in the United Kingdom (UK) investigating the relationship between care home culture and residents' experience of care. Eleven UK care homes were included in an in-depth comparative case study design using extensive observation and interviews. Our analysis indicates how organisational cultures of care homes impact on the quality of care residents receive. Seven inter-related cultural elements were of key importance to quality of care. Applying Schein's conceptualisation of organisational culture, we examine the dynamic relationship between these elements to show how organisational culture is locally produced and shifting. A particular organisational culture in a care home cannot be achieved simply by importing a set of organisational values or the ‘right’ leader or staff. Rather, it is necessary to find ways of resolving the everyday demands of practice in ways that are consistent with espoused values. It is through this everyday practice that assumptions continuously evolve, either consistent with or divergent from, espoused values. Implications for policy makers, providers and practitioners are discussed.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Anne Killett, School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK. E-mail:


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Ageing & Society
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