HBI Deals+Insights / Interviews

The future of elderly care — an interview with James Tugendhat, CEO of HC-One

James Tugendhat will be speaking at the Sector in focus: Elderly care session at HBI 2024 on Wednesday 12 June at 2.00 pm in London. Final places are available, but filling quickly at the time of going to press.

With HBI 2024 now just a couple of days away, we spoke with James Tugendhat, CEO of HC-One, about the care home provider’s digitalisation and data utilisation work, which has helped it to bolster its position post-COVID and improve quality processes and outcomes.

Despite a tumultuous few years for the care sector, there is cause for optimism

James Tugendhat, CEO, HC-One

Despite a challenging few years for the elderly care sector, including the effects of the COVID pandemic, workforce shortages, the challenging economic situation and quality of care, Tugendhat is optimistic about the overall state of the sector.

“The most important point for all of us in the market is that we’re approaching two years since the worst of the pandemic and the market and sector has largely recovered to pre-COVID levels and you see that in terms of occupancy. The latest sector data I saw had the market back at around 89%. You also see it in terms of operators’ ability to recruit and bring in colleagues to meet the needs of those in our care,” Tugendhat says.

“Having said that, the overall staffing vacancy rate is still high for the sector, and versus the NHS, and delivering ever higher quality will always be an ongoing challenge — as it always will be for everyone as you can never be complacent where  quality is concerned. Given the gap between the fair cost of care and the levels of inflation that we’ve experienced, ensuring financial sustainability remains a question for the sector.

“We are really excited about the progress we’ve made at HC-One. We invested significantly in our workforce very early on and brought  around 85% of our colleagues into the real living wage or above.

“We enhanced our proposition to our colleagues in terms of flexible working . Our colleague retention rate is now higher than it’s ever been and well ahead of the sector average.

 “That in turn has translated positively into our quality, which has translated into our occupancy levels also being ahead of the market. We got to  over 90% occupancy last year and have grown further since. In our world, if you’ve got a fulfilled and engaged group of colleagues delivering kind care, quality will follow and with that your reputation – and that’s the only way to fill a home,” Tugendhat adds.

Utilising digital technology to empower the workforce

Tugendhat explains how one of HC-One’s biggest focuses has been on investing heavily in its colleagues and its homes, including through ensuring that colleagues  can have more time to care. It has achieved the latter through more effectively utilising new technologies:

“Beyond allowing more time to care, digitising care given on a daily basis allows us to analyse the findings and use these insights to give better care.”

We know that what effective managers do really well is they know the needs of those they care for and the capability and capacity of their team and they’re brilliant at aligning that. Through deploying our electronic incident management, electronic rostering and electronic med care planning systems, we can now turn what has long been a manager’s intuition, about how best to deploy a team to raise quality and meet care needs, into data and insight than can be harnessed by all of our homes, at scale, and supports us to do things differently,” Tugendhat asserts.

There have been some very striking outcomes from HC-One’s deployment of digital platforms already:

“When homes have implemented our full digital suite, we’ve immediately seen at least a 35 hour gain on administration time alone. That’s a whole person. Colleagues are really excited because they can spend more time thinking about the care plan, not writing it out. We’ve also seen drops in falls and drops in UTIs as well as better understanding of different diabetic needs.

The focus on digitalisation and data utilisation is heavily tied into the company’s focus on improving its quality of care and also helping the company to grow.

“We have a platform that we can now add to and bring new groups into. For us, though, the focus will be on being a mainstream care provider, serving at the heart our communities,  and raising the bar on quality as well as accelerating our growth.

“Our data insights have really helped inform key decisions for us. For example, we’ve already been able to apply our insight in terms of informing and enhancing our recruitment strategy, as well as really shaping our portfolio – looking at where we want to be operating and growing and why – and pricing our service exactly to the local market need.

“In combination with our leadership and culture, digital and data is a key tenant of our strategy as we move forward.”

The impact of a new government

When it comes to what the result in the 2024 General Election will mean for HC-One and the elderly care sector, Tugendhat is clear.

“The reality is any government coming in is going to be managing a very difficult economic situation. We want to be able to keep improving care for those we care for, keep improving our proposition to our colleagues and keep investing in our homes in ways that don’t depend on government better funding social care because we just can’t be sure any government will have the means to do it.

My hope would be that the next government, whatever its political leaning, will look to invest in the workforce. I think those colleagues who have been in the sector longer than me have known not to ever bank on better funding from government, but we stand ready to work with the new government to foster a sustainable and better organised social care system that meets the needs of individuals and communities so that more people can lead their best life.”

Recognising the challenges that lie ahead for the elderly care sector, Tugendhat remains optimistic about HC-One’s position and prospects, with the company committed to a strategy of investing in its workforce, its homes, and technological capabilities.

Who will be speaking at HBI 2024’s Sector in focus: Elderly care session?


Sector in focus: Elderly care, HBI 2024


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