THE BIG INTERVIEW: Care Homes fit for Royal Deeside

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Deeside Care Holdings is investing £22 million in residential and nursing homes for Aberdeen. The company believes that its focus on premium services, staff and luxury home environments will attract the cream of the area’s self-funding residents as Care Home Professional discovers in conversation with directors Paul Beaumont and Kristin Jackson-Brown.

CARE HOME PROFESSIONAL: The first question I need cleared up is the corporate structure into which Deeside Care Holdings and Deeside Care LLP fit. My assumption is that it is a Care Concern Group home, but perhaps you can confirm?

PAUL BEAUMONT: Deeside Care Holdings is its own group of homes, which includes Rubislaw Park Care Home, also in Aberdeen, Westerton Care Home, in Bearsden, Glasgow, and what will be Manor Grange Care Home, an 83 bed new build site near Murrayfield, Edinburgh due for completion during Q4 2016. All other homes associated with Care Concern operate as separate entities.

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CHP: Can you give me a brief history of Care Concern Group and an outline of the business as it stands today such as the number of homes, number of beds, breakdown between self-funding and authority funded, resident beds with and without nursing, geographical spread, refurbished homes versus new build?

PAUL BEAUMONT: The group started and continues to be operated as a family business. Over the years it has grown in size; it has moved its primary focus from what would be considered traditional homes, to premium homes like Deeside.  What we like to do is leave the operation of our homes with our managers and our Directors of Care as much as possible. These people are in the best possible place to do this. I want to be out there looking at new ideas, finding new sites, and other ways of improving the business.

KRISTIN JACKSON-BROWN: Within all these homes we provide residential, nursing and dementia care for self-funding and local authority funded residents.

CHP: How has your portfolio of homes changed since you began, and how do you see it changing in the future?

PAUL BEAUMONT: The focus since I joined the business has always been to look to offer a premium level of care for our residents. We want them to feel we are providing as much of a ‘home from home’ as possible. I love to hear feedback direct from residents and their families as to how this is the case, it provides a tremendous sense of achievement and pride.

KRISTIN JACKSON-BROWN: Since I joined the company a year ago, I have seen a tremendous drive and enthusiasm for the exceptional quality we have delivered in the refurbishment of our two Aberdeen homes.  These homes have additional services thanks to the upgrade including a bar/café, cinema, library, luxury hairdressing salon, therapy room and private dining/celebration room.  In addition to the huge investment into the home environments, there has been a key focus on provision of high quality care through investment in our staff and using the feedback we receive from our residents and their families to continuously improve the service we provide.

CHP: What are your rates per bed with nursing and without in Deeside?

KRISTIN JACKSON-BROWN: This will depend on the many things such as the type and level of care required and the personal circumstances of the prospective resident, we generally do not discuss fee rates with third parties.

CHP: What trends do you see in the care home business in terms of design, services, care provision, community, customer acquisition and relationship management?

PAUL BEAUMONT: These are all vitally important factors for us. As I mentioned, the focus for us is to provide as high a level of care and support as we can. We are always looking at ways to further enhance this. We ask simple questions like, ‘what do people want?’ and then think hard about how best to provide it. All said, Kristin is best positioned to give you a flavour of what we offer within our homes including the Aberdeen homes.

KRISTIN JACKSON-BROWN: Within our new homes, we look to include a courtesy car and chauffeured mini bus; coffee or cafe lounge and bar; a hair and beauty salon; a therapy room; gym; private dining area and cinema. Where possible we also include entertainment and activities such as a putting green.

Naturally, we cannot fit everything into all homes, but whatever we do offer is always included within the fee rate for all our residents.

In addition we are passionate about ensuring we have a motivated team who have the facilities and support to provide a very high standard of care to our residents.  Our community links are very important and we ensure our residents remain very much part of their local community through fostering good relationships with local churches, schools, volunteer groups and local suppliers.

I personally see the care home business as an exciting healthcare sector, which offers great opportunities to nurses and care staff.

CHP: What have been your greatest successes and what have you learnt when things have not gone so well?

PAUL BEAUMONT: The biggest successes for me are seeing something through from start to finish. For this you could look at either of our Rubislaw or Deeside homes. I was there at the start of the process for both. I always seem to remember the first exposure to a site. When we took on both of these homes they were in a state which was very different to the way they are now.

Both acquisitions presented their own challenges which, as a team, we were able to overcome; from mini sink holes in the car park to bad weather delays – although the sun always seems to shine when I am in Scotland!

As regards what has not gone as well, without being specific, I always strongly consider that it is vital to react to situations that could compromise either the level of care or the choice of service that we offer. I continually ask myself, ‘did I act quickly enough and should I have acted earlier’. If you ask this often enough you can avert a lot of problems before they become issues.

KRISTIN JACKSON-BROWN: The greatest successes for me are seeing my teams achieve great results. This can be anything from receiving positive feedback from a resident or their relative, to achieving good grades on inspection.

I am passionate about excellent quality care and always striving to achieve more for our residents and staff.  Seeing Rubislaw and Deeside before and following refurbishment, and the residents and their families enjoying the many additional services now on offer such as the bar or private dining room, makes me very happy.

Where something has not gone as well as hoped, I always see that as an opportunity for improvement and to develop the service.  As a team we have overcome challenges that have presented during the transition of both Rubislaw and Deeside from where they were when we acquired them to the services they are now.

CHP: What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges over the next 10 years?

PAUL BEAUMONT: It is very evident that as the elderly population is growing, we will face the same challenges as the wider industry, which is to meet this demand in the best possible way. Naturally the industry needs to deliver both the right amount of accommodation, in the sense of the number of beds, and an appropriate choice of service to meet everyone’s expectations.

KRISTIN JACKSON-BROWN: I see great opportunity in the quality and level of care that care homes can and will be able to provide.  Nurses and care staff in care homes are becoming more and more skilled to deliver specialist care.  It is an exciting sector to be in for healthcare professionals.  A big challenge for the sector is the national shortage in nurses.

CHP: How do you view the competitive landscape as you grow your business?

PAUL BEAUMONT: We are happy with competition, it makes us strive harder to ensure we are providing the best possible care in the area.

CHP: Who are your key suppliers that you work with on refurbs and new builds, and why?

PAUL BEAUMONT: We have a wide range of suppliers, we find it keeps them keen on their costs! (They won’t like me saying that!) It is also true that because of our geographical spread we cannot use the same builder, the same professionals, all the time. If a certain builder or professional delivers us a ‘hassle free and competitive build’ we will use them again and again. I think they know who they are.

KRISTIN JACKSON-BROWN: We support local suppliers to our homes where we can, this encourages our community involvement and establishes good relationships.

CHP: Deeside Care Holdings is reportedly investing £22 million into elderly care in Aberdeen, alone. Can you give me details of your plans for the city and surrounding area?

PAUL BEAUMONT: We have, as you know, just purchased and extensively refurbished Deeside Care Home, we have also purchased and refurbished Rubislaw Park both to a high standard. Rubislaw is to have a further extension that will lead to an additional 20 bedrooms. The work for this is out for tender and will commence as early as possible next year. We are also holding some exclusivity options on some other sites in the area.

CHP: What are the market conditions in Aberdeen that make it ripe for this type of investment?

PAUL BEAUMONT: We do not necessarily see Aberdeen as a particular exception, I have a simple theory: if a community has the right number and size of chimney pots then as a care provider we should be part of that community.

KRISTIN JACKSON-BROWN: Both our Aberdeen homes are in great locations, easily accessible by many bus routes.  Deeside is located in the heart of the community of Cults and Rubislaw is set in a beautiful leafy secluded walled garden.  I am from Aberdeen and was brought up just around the corner from Rubislaw. In my teenage years I lived metres away from our Deeside home.

I have enjoyed working in the care home sector for over 15 years and see the Aberdeen market buoyant. Our services deliver a much sought after product in terms of residents expectations of quality both in environment and care provision.

CHP: What does Aberdeen lack that you can provide?

PAUL BEAUMONT: Again, we do not really see it this way round. We look at what we can we offer to a community, be it Aberdeen, Bearsden or our new home that we are building in Edinburgh.

KRISTIN JACKSON-BROWN: As I said earlier, we are looking to deliver a product that Aberdeen residents are seeking: high quality living with high quality care.

CHP: Will all Deeside Care properties match or exceed the standard of this Rowan Court Care Home redevelopment?

PAUL BEAUMONT: We will certainly look for them to do so.

CHP: According to Knight Frank research, Scotland is more profitable per resident for care home operators than many parts of England outside the South. How would you say the public and private funding differs north of the border to other parts of the UK?

KRISTIN JACKSON-BROWN: The Scottish government has a clear objective to look after the elderly, in addition all care home residents receive a level of funding assistance from the Scottish Government. This varies depending on whether they are private or local authority funded and also depending on the type of care required.  There is a personal care and a nursing allowance.

CHP: How much of your income in Scotland is from self-funded residents, and how much is from local authorities?

PAUL BEAUMONT: All the homes under the Deeside Care Holdings umbrella concentrate on the private funded residents, hence this is where the vast majority of income will flow from.

CHP: Aberdeen was recently declared the wealthiest city in Scotland. Does this encourage you to create premium care homes for affluent residents?

PAUL BEAUMONT: Naturally, yes.

CHP: The current oil price slump is affecting the economy of the north east of Scotland. Has it affected your investment plans?

PAUL BEAUMONT: We did look into this but the oil price has always fluctuated and will continue to do so, we do not really see the global price of oil as being a major influence – we have many other measures on which we base our decisions.

KRISTIN JACKSON-BROWN: Whilst there is a recognisable effect of the oil industry in the city, I have not yet seen this affect our sector.  It is affecting the working generation more than the elderly.  Both our homes are continuing to achieve high occupancy levels.

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