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, whether generated from Local Government Associations, care associations and social media in addition to the national Gov UK guidance.
And more change from the Regulator is to come as anticipated with businesses needing to ensure that they are ready and agile for more change with, dare I say it, Winter, hovering around the corner!
We can expect more remote monitoring with the care sector digitalisation approaching an accelerated rollout. There is no doubt that the CQC is seeking a real-time live data system of inspection which will no doubt make inspection output less likely to be challenged.
So as we await the CQC Strategy 21 what can the care provider action in the meantime?
What care providers can do
There will need to be a greater uptake in the use of technology in the sector, already demonstrated in hindsight due to Covid-19 together with continuous evolution to enhance the care service.
Care providers may also be looking at whether the business structure needs addressing, as an example, is a care home property asset ring fenced from the trading operation?
If a business has several care homes is each care home trading as a separate entity within a group structure? More on this in a later article!
Potentially an 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 well being of staff, as well as residents, should providers consider a refurbishment/building extension programme?
I have developed some current top tips for care business viability across the board:
Top tips for care business viability
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 can assist in this area.
2. 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. Audit of data output and evidencing recommendations with follow up action is an important part of ongoing CQC inspection preparation.
3. 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 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, 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 ensuite facilities as part of a risk assessment/isolation policy alongside relative/resident meeting hubs and green space alongside additional storage capacity for PPE and staff space.
4. Staff engagement and training
Ongoing and increased investment in staff training and well being 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 professionalization of the care sector with clear career progression will ensure staff empowerment and a well-led business. This, in turn, will generate higher referrals and occupancy with increased community communications. Revisit the rising star programme and internal mentorship.
5. Financial forecasting and agility
Providers grapple with the new times. Financial forecasts 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 of the CQC of future sustainability. This is important for new care business registrations as well as the ongoing business entity.
6. Securing funding
Funding and cash are important. In the current climate, a provider should look at the 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.
With the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) set to end on 30 September 2020 it is important that the process is started quickly should additional funds be required due to prolonged occupancy issues and increased costs per bed.
Other products are available under the scheme with options also available under the Government Bounce Back Loan (BBL) noting that you cannot have both loans and a provider would need to demonstrate eligible criteria.
Ensure that you can demonstrate expenditure against Government pandemic grants in case of a future enquiry with potential payback of underspent grants.
Revisit the business continuity plan and consider specialist assistance if needed.