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.