The age-old problem We speak to Calum Barclay of care home operators Fidelia Care about some of the hot topics in the sector
What are the issues facing the care sector at the moment, Calum?
Many care home operators today have to deal with the double whammy of increased cost of care and reducing local authority budgets. The introduction of a National Living Wage (NLW) is having a huge impact on the care sector due to the high staffing levels required. Many care homes in the Gloucestershire area will see no more than a 2% increase in local authority-related revenue this year, albeit there has been nearly an 11% increase in the minimum wage since September 2015! There is also the well-known issue of nurse shortages. This is on top of increasing regulation and compliance demand on management. The fact is, there will be many homes closing over the next few years.
How are these affecting you as providers?
Change is not necessarily a bad thing, as there is a certain ‘law of nature’ overdue for the sector to move forward. Certainly more homes will close over the coming years as they struggle to cope with years of constant rising costs. In turn this will provide opportunity for successful operators to acquire homes, and where possible improve them. Not by driving down costs but investing in the staff and the environment, and then ensuring it is supported by good management. This is the buzz word in the sector at the moment, and is one of the key areas being focused on by the Care Quality Commission.
How are you dealing with the staff challenges?
As a society, we need to understand that paying the NLW to care staff is the right thing to do. After all, a large part of the six million workers affected are looking after our most vulnerable people in society. In our view, it pays to pay. By that I mean paying staff relatively well reduces retention issues, which in turn reduces the costs of recruiting and training new staff – it’s a win-win. Training is also a key retention tool, and will ensure less staff-related risks in the home. A happy and well balanced workforce will essentially start to manage itself; the low quality staff resign and are filled by existing staff recommendations of people who match their ethos and standards. It’s about creating the right culture.
What makes a good care provider?
Good management, good management and more good management. You need to have a hands-on management approach, and be able to manage anything: people, property, finance, business and more. Finally, and most importantly, you genuinely need to care for your residents and staff. Get this right, and all else will fall into place.
How does someone find the care home for them?
There is a reasonable choice of care homes in the Costwolds, whether it be for different care services (eg dementia) or the type and style of the home itself (modern, period etc.). The short answer is research, recommendations and online reviews. In some ways it is no different to finding a good hotel, initially anyway. You receive a recommendation, or you go online and find one in your desired area. Websites will allow a certain amount of filtering, before you look at customer reviews (for the equivalent of TripAdvisor for care homes try carehome.co.uk). The obvious difference is you need to visit a care home before committing, and it is good to see a few to be able to compare. This gives you a feel for the place. Ask yourself, does it have a nice atmosphere? Do the staff seem happy? The best care is not always the most expensive.
Do people have to sell their house to pay for their care?
It depends on many factors, which are outside of the operator’s control. Currently if your assets are worth more than £23,250, you pay for your care. The amount of unmortgaged property held by pensioners in the UK is approximately £800bn. This is an obvious target for the Government as no-one wants to pay more tax to fill this giant looming black hole. Despite David Cameron’s objective that nobody should have to sell their house to pay for care, it’s hard to see how this cannot happen in some cases as it tends to be a large portion of someone’s net wealth. There are other options as councils are required by law to offer ‘deferred payment’ arrangements, which allow people to borrow money to pay for care against the cost of their home. The council lends the money and charges a low rate of interest (typically 2-3%) which is paid, along with the capital borrowed, typically at the homeowner’s death.
Why did you decide to buy a care home?
I remember the care homes my grandmother lived in (three over 15 years) – one was ok, the others not so much. However, all of them could have been better. We saw an opportunity to buy homes and make them better, using our relatively unique knowledge and experiences. We want to provide high quality care in beautiful surroundings. n Fidelia Care own Lypiatt Lodge Nursing Home in Cheltenham, www.fideliahealthcare.co.uk Calum Barclay of Fidelia Care