CHP paid a visit to the Skylark Care Home in Horesham to find out how business development director Richard Pearman has helped lead Care UK through a period of unprecedented growth.
“You’ve picked a good time to talk to me,” Richard says as he greets me with a smile in the lounge of Care UK’s recently opened Skylark care home in Horsham.
2017 is a milestone year for Care UK’s Business Development Director – it’s 20 years since he joined the business.
“When I first came in, Care UK was still primarily a public sector contracting business,” Richard explains. “Everything we had done until that point had been on the back of a tender and outsourcing contract with no real private pay business.”
By refocusing on the private payer of the care sector, Richard has helped turn Care UK from a small provider to a £300m turnover business.
“After public sector outsourcing opportunities began to wind down we said: ‘What’s the future of the care market in the UK?’ “We could see that the private market was developing and if we wanted to carry on building our business we had to engage with it and that’s what we’ve done.”
When looking at Care UK’s growth over the past 10 years,the figures speak for themselves. The business has opened 29 care homes between
2013 and 2017, equivalent to 2,200 places.
“I think that makes us the most successful organic developer of care homes in the UK in that period,” Richard says.
Through this period, Richard has seen the care home model evolve into a larger and more flexible template able to cater for residents with increasing
levels of acuity.
“You can’t extract the building from the care.”
“In the early 90s we were building much smaller homes of 30-40 beds without en suite bathrooms, with narrow corridors and smaller bedrooms,”
“Over the last 10 years they have proven to be inflexible in terms of supporting the types of residents that we now get.
“Everyone tends to be more dependent, particularly people coming through the public sector route, so you need the flexibility for the clinical kit
that the care requires.
“Care homes have had to get bigger for care requirements but they have also had to get bigger because land prices have gone up and therefore you
need to get more building on site in order to be able to make them work,” Richard explains.
The typical Care UK home is now 60 beds and over. One of the provider’s most successful homes – Manor Lodge in Chelmsford – has 120 beds but Richard points out that through a clever design people would never know it.
The trick for Richard and his team has been to build larger homes with an increasing array of care which still feel homely and welcoming.
“80 bed homes can work well if they are designed to work as groups of small care homes,” Richard says.
Homes are organised within suites for 15-20 people to maintain a community feel. In Scotland, Care UK is obliged to operate within 10-15 units
due to Care Inspectorate requirements around dementia care.
Finding new sites in the UK’s most competitive area for private fee payer care homes is not easy, however, Richard admits.
“It’s very difficult to buy land,” he says. “You are often competing against residential house builders who are prepared to pay more than you are
able to pay.”