Welcoming residents into a new care home

Sara Livadeas, director of Social Care Works, has written a guide to opening a new care home for operators, which is sponsored by Care England. Here she provides a summary of the content, which focuses on the period during which new residents move into their new home

Opening a new care home represents a huge investment for an operator in terms of both time and money. Whether the home has been commissioned from scratch or bought as a turnkey, a bit of scrubland will no doubt have been transformed with a lovely new building with great facilities, en-suite bedrooms and dementia friendly design features. However, once the initial euphoria has passed, many providers find that running a new home puts a huge strain on their business. Many run into difficulties, receiving poor Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection ratings and experiencing safety breaches, lower than expected occupancy rates and a high staff turnover in the first few months of operation.

During time spent as strategy director for a large operator, I was responsible for leading the care home development programme and became aware of the pressure that opening a new home puts on an organisation. I looked around for guidance, but although I found plenty of

information on how to close a home, there was nothing to help with the early phase of operation, once the build is complete. I therefore interviewed experienced care home providers as well as interested parties such as Skills for Care, in order to provide a summary of the main themes and issues that an operator needs to consider when opening a new home in accordance with their company culture, policies and procedures.

There is ample evidence that the demand for good quality care homes is increasing. Last year, The Lancet predicted a severe shortfall in care home provision in the future, publishing research stating that 71,000 additional care home places will be needed by 2025.1


despite this demand, successfully commissioning a new home is challenging, even for experienced operators. Anecdotal evidence that opening a new care home is difficult is also backed up by data. Analysis of CQC ratings shows that homes that have opened in the past two years are more likely to be

rated ‘requires improvement’ than those that are more established. The consequent impact on the reputation of the home locally at a time when it may be struggling to attract both residents and staff is self evident.

Advance planning

Planning for a successful new home starts well before the doors open. It may seem obvious, but it is important that operating decisions are taken early and encapsulated in a well researched business plan. Large or small, every detail needs to be covered, from whether staff will wear uniforms to categories of care and the relevant fees. If the number of occupants does not reach required levels, managers may start to vary the plan, but a lack of governance over decision making can lead to confusion and eventually to poor morale and high employee turnover.

Opening a new care home presents a unique opportunity to shape the culture. A strong person centred approach promotes the involvement of residents and their families in the decisions that affect the running of the home as well as in those about their day to day care. Meaningful involvement in staff training, showing visitors around the home and sharing recipes, are a few examples. Involving residents in the recruitment process also gives a strong signal to new employees that the service is person centred right from the start. A good marketing plan is essential because however good the demographics are in a locality, people cannot move into a home if they do not know that it is there. Ensuring there is sufficient commercial acumen in the company is also necessary for success, especially for organisations that are normally reliant on public sector commissioning.

Opening a new care home presents a unique opportunity to shape the culture November 2018 • Diversifying into providing care for 39

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