Meet the Manager Interview – Thornton Avenue – Mark Sutton

Meet the Manager Interview – Thornton Avenue – Mark Sutton

A headshot of Mark

Our new Service Manager at Thornton Avenue in South West London, Mark Sutton, tells us how his career ended up in the healthcare industry, his favourite thing to do with the residents, and his vision for the service as he settles into his new role at Thornton Avenue. 

Thornton Avenue provides their residents with the support they need, helping to promote independence and maintain a high standard of both physical and mental wellbeing. They’re committed to helping every person we support feel safe, happy, empowered enabling them to live the best life possible.

Could you tell us a bit about your career background and experience in the healthcare industry?
Before working in the healthcare industry, I was an offset lithographic printer for 25 years. After being made redundant, I took a 12-month sabbatical. Then I saw an advert looking for support workers. I went for the interview, got the job, and started working at Thornton Avenue with individuals who have epilepsy.

I quickly realised how fulfilling this work was. I felt like I was making a difference in someone’s life, which wasn’t the case in my previous industry. I worked there for eight years as a support worker, gradually taking on more responsibilities. When the manager left, I acted as a senior staff member for 6-7 months.

Eventually, I was offered the position of manager. I was nervous during the interview, but I got it. Once I started working as a manager, I realised it was the right choice for me. 

As a manager, I see my role as supporting my staff so they can better support our service users. This all starts with the service users, with staff supporting them, and myself supporting staff. My aim is to ensure the service runs well on every level — supportively, financially and emotionally. I still get to work directly with our residents, and I maintain an open-door policy.

What do you enjoy most about the role?
I enjoy the challenge of learning and developing myself in new ways, such as the financial and business aspects. But what I enjoy most is the same reason I loved the job initially — the satisfaction of knowing I’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life, even if it’s not massive. That feeling hasn’t changed, even though my job title has.

What’s your favourite thing to do with the residents?
It’s an all-male service, so there’s lots of friendly chats. I enjoy sitting down with the guys, watching a football match, just being one of the lads. There are no barriers — we’re all on the same page. Interacting with them on a one-to-one, equal footing is my favourite part of the job.

It goes back a long way. I’ve lost several friends to suicide in the past, and it’s always been in the back of my mind — what if someone could have said something to help? I’ve always thought something could have been done to prevent those situations. Also, I have family members and friends with bipolar disorder and clinical depression. There has always been this connection in my life with people who are overlooked and struggling with life. The ability to help someone who is struggling is my main reason for doing what I do, both inside and outside of work.

Could you give us an overview of the services provided at Thornton Avenue?
Initially, it was opened for people with epilepsy, but it has grown and changed. Now we have people living with epilepsy, acquired brain injuries, and various comorbid conditions. We support individuals with autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other conditions that make it difficult for them to live independently. For example, we have a service user with an acquired brain injury and alcohol addiction, another with controlled epilepsy and a mild learning disability. Our service is like a family unit, encompassing support for a wide range of needs.

How would you go about supporting someone with multiple conditions, like acquired brain injury, epilepsy, and alcohol addiction?
It’s a complex process. We ensure that medication is taken to prevent seizures. For the acquired brain injury, we communicate in a way that enables understanding, sometimes using translation apps if needed. Regarding alcoholism, if the individual has capacity and chooses to drink, we encourage them to drink less and increase observations when they’re intoxicated. We also work on their psychological wellbeing, trying to engage them in activities or work opportunities that give them purpose, often collaborating with organisations like Headway.

What is the team like at Thornton Avenue?
They’re amazing. They’re incredibly skilled and knowledgeable on a technical level, especially in dealing with seizures. The degree of care they provide goes above and beyond what they’re paid or asked to do professionally. It’s like a family unit. We’ve had great feedback when our staff have worked shifts at other services. It’s taken time to build this team, they’re really dedicated and professional.

What is your vision for Thornton Avenue in the next few years?
We’re currently undergoing a cosmetic revamp of the property. In terms of service users, I’d like to see them become more independent and confident in taking on challenges. As for the service itself, I expect us to be rated as outstanding by the CQC. We’re constantly referring to CQC ideals and policies to ensure we’re up to speed on everything. My aim is for other services in ACG to look up to Thornton Avenue as an example of excellence.

What’s your favourite thing about working for ACG?
Apart from the job itself and interacting with service users and staff, I feel fully supported. I’m never judged if I’m unsure about something, and I get so much help and support from other managers and operations directors. The company is transparent about expectations, which I appreciate. We have regular meetings where everyone can voice their concerns or share positive experiences, and issues are quickly addressed. I feel my voice is listened to.

When you’re not at Thornton Avenue, what do you like to do in your spare time?
After catching up on sleep following long shifts, I play guitar. I’m a musician in my spare time. I’m in a band, and we do gigs once or twice a month. I write songs and jam with other people. Not forgetting my family and loved ones, these are the people who keep me grounded and inspire me to grow into the best version of myself.

For more information about Thornton Avenue, please visit their webpage