Julie Hopkins, Albert Goodman’s Care Sector Business Developer and Consultant, shares her tips for making your care business agile in these changing times with some business advice for the care sector
As a researcher and business advisor in the care sector, it has been a marathon keeping up with the almost daily guidance in the sector. Numerous articles have been generated from Local Government Associations, care associations, and other social media, in addition to guidance from the national Government. More change from the Regulator is anticipated, with businesses needing to ensure that they are ready and agile for more change with Winter upon us.
We can expect more remote monitoring, with the care sector digitalisation approaching an accelerated rollout. There is no doubt that CQC is seeking a real-time live data system of inspection, which will no doubt make inspection output less likely to be challenged.
As we await the CQC Strategy 21, what action can care providers take in the meantime?
Firstly, there will need to be a greater uptake in the use of technology in the sector. This was clearly demonstrated during the pandemic, but continuous evolution is required to enhance the care service (see our piece “The robots are coming” later in this newsletter for more information).
Secondly, care providers may also be looking at whether the business structure needs addressing – for example, is a care home property asset ringfenced from the trading operation? If a business has several care homes, is each home trading as a separate entity within a group structure?
Thirdly, a possible accelerated outcome of the pandemic is the need to address whether a current property is fit for purpose as a care home. With social distancing, increased infection controls and a greater emphasis on the health and wellbeing of staff as well as residents, should providers consider a refurbishment/building extension programme?
Whilst thinking about sound business advice for the care sector, I have developed some current top tips for care business viability across the board:
Technology: Technology is definitely progressing at a faster pace in the post-pandemic world, and with it there may be opportunities for a Research & Development tax claim. A specialist tax accountant, such as Albert Goodman’s Elaine Grose, can assist in this area.
Care plan quality: The digitalisation of care planning is just the start. Ensuring the quality of the care plan and examining the trends of any output is vital alongside the actual accountancy function. Auditing data output and evidencing recommendations with follow-up action is an important part of ongoing CQC inspection preparation.
Restructures, risk and audits: Business restructures, whether it is an incorporation of a sole trade or partnership, or a review of the overall company structure taking into account tax and accountancy aspects alongside an assessment of risk and corporate governance, will most likely be accelerated as business life rejuvenates. As a business adapts and grows, audit may be a current and future requirement. As with other services, audits of financial statements and cash-flow and management accounts, and reviews for investor needs are becoming more demanding. Speaking to a care sector audit specialist will be increasingly important in this new world. The pandemic has illustrated the need for larger rooms with en-suite facilities as part of a risk assessment/ isolation policy, alongside relative/resident meeting hubs, green space, additional storage capacity for PPE, and staff space.
Staff engagement and training: Ongoing and increased investment in staff training and wellbeing is essential. Staff needs should be embedded in the business culture in an open and transparent communication arena. Team engagement in the business continuity strategy will follow, and indeed will address any potential employee whistleblowing concerns. The increased professionalisation of the care sector, with clear career progression, will ensure staff empowerment and a well-led business. This will, in turn, generate higher referrals and occupancy with increased community communications. Revisit your ‘rising star’ programme and any mentoring arrangements.
Financial forecasting and agility: Some providers are grappling with the new times. Financial forecasts can assist providers to ensure that short and long term funding meet the needs of the business, and highlight any areas for action whether now or in the future. Demonstrating an agile business is evidence to CQC of future sustainability. This is important for new care business registrations, as well as the ongoing business entity.
Securing funding: Funding and cash are always important, but never more so than now. In the current climate a provider should look at current, short and long term funding, be resilient, and accept factors outside of their control. Focus on what can be achieved, and take back control post-pandemic.