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Care homes warned: specialise to survive

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 28, 2013

Nynehead Court's proprietors John Lewin, left, and John Bailey with NatWest's Nigel Skuse (centre)

Nynehead Court's proprietors John Lewin, left, and John Bailey with NatWest's Nigel Skuse (centre)

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Small care homes must specialise to avoid being forced out of business by retirement 'villages' that offer a broader provision of care to the elderly.

New research by accountancy firm Bishop Fleming has revealed that the Westcountry is becoming a magnet for operators seeking to establish large-scale care communities for the elderly.

But it warned that government funding cutbacks and increased demand for specialist care will lead to many small local establishments struggling to compete.

Bishop Fleming has said that many homes will struggle to survive, unless they adapt their business to offer specialist services or upmarket "boutique" facilities aimed at well-off individuals. Meanwhile, others may expand their reach through the provision of domicillary care to support more elderly people to continue living in their own homes.

Tim Godfrey, lead partner on Bishop Fleming's care-homes team, said: "Small homes must decide to go for top-quality services to self-funders, becoming more like a boutique hotel, or specialise in an area of care which demands higher fee rates for publicly funded residents. The alternative is that they will go out of business."

Bishop Fleming said that cost pressures will see an increase in large-scale home operators developing 'hub & spoke' care home 'villages' providing nursing and dementia care as well as general support to residents.

John Lewin, managing director of the Tiverton-based Stepping Stone Group, which is behind luxury retirement home Nynehead Court, in Wellington, said that businesses like his had already identified and based a business model around demand for bespoke retirement living.

He says that the NHS and Community Care Act, which saw local authorities take over from social security in the provision of care for the elderly in the early 1990s brought about significant change to the industry.

Since acquiring Nynehead Court in 2004, he and business partner John Bailey have invested more than £3 million in upgrades and improvements to offer what they describe as "gracious retirement living" for discerning – and affluent – private clients.

"Back then, there was no such thing as living independently, with care available on-site," he said.

Stepping Stone developed 11 serviced "mews" cottages within Nynehead's 13 acres of landscaped grounds, which, sold on long-leases to residents, maintain their investment value.

Private residents pay a monthly fee to cover emergency care and grounds maintenance, with care billed on a separate tariff.

"It means people know you and that you can tap into services when and if you need them," said Mr Lewin.

Nynehead has come to attract active octogenarians who still value their independence, but are thinking ahead to a stage where they may need some level of assistance in their day-to-day life. It employs around 60 staff, all recruited locally.

Earlier this month, within the Grade 11 listed house itself, a new specialist memory-care wing was opened to accommodate residents with dementia.

The business secured an £800,000 loan through NatWest to build the facility, which is supported by 12 specialist carers.

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