“Keep your customers close, and your competitors closer” – Seeking innovation and collaboration in the care sector..
Adam Hutchison – Managing Director of Belmont Sandbanks Care Group & Vice Chair of the Kent Integrated Care Alliance.
Having come from a parallel universe to the care sector, having gained my experience in corporate telecommunications. The Care industry took some getting used to, to understand it’s almost unique nature when it comes to business activities. Although the sector is heavily present in the media and has ownership from corporate VC’s and managing partners to independent businesses. The industry is very different in how it operates day to day. The standard business activities are present of course, but the sheer plethora of requirements involved in this sector are so diverse incorporating finance, construction, people management and almost most importantly high levels of regulations.
As a business sector it actually involves more facets of understanding than any other industry, as the requirements of owning a business in this sector are so broad. Although, for me personally there are 2 main themes which, are most prominent right now.
Firstly is that of collaboration, the title of this article is a play on the reality that the sector is unique in how it works when it comes to customers and competitors. This is probably the only industry in the country whereby you get the feeling that you are closer to your competitors than your customers. And when I say customers I do not mean our service users / residents for whom we care for but our stakeholder customers who fund care which is predominantly the Local Authorities. The levels of collaboration in the sector between your competitive agencies is unprecedented, with the allocation of national groups such as Care England, Care Association Alliance and the UKHCA to the local care associations such as KiCA (www.kica.care) of which I am vice-chair. The market works together to share best practice, knowledge and develop strategies to enable services to deliver the best possible care to those in need. This is something, which is sadly missed when discussing with our major customers the Local Authorities. This concept sounds alien indeed but the harsh facts of working in the care industry. Associations such as KiCA have become valued entities to bring providers together but also suppliers offering a platform for engagement to help businesses excel.
This brings to the second point of innovation, the care sector is considered to sometimes be behind in terms of innovating but this a very blinkered view. With the heightened collaboration between care providers through avenues discussed here, has created group development power to work with national organisations such as SEHTA and private suppliers to create innovative models of care and supply of services. This does not only give cost advantages but also development as by sharing best practices the products and services introduced to the market become more fit for purpose ensuring that they are of use to the sector rather than a wasted cost. Cash flow and capital is king like in any business and with the constant discussion of low care fees the search for innovative cost saving solutions are paramount to any care business strategy but its knowing what is right and when to implement these innovations. They are not just about technology the delivery of care for individuals has to be the pinnacle of each business otherwise why do it. The standard of care at present is extremely high due to great innovative thinking inside businesses that care and from agencies externally such as Ladder to the Moon who are now present on the CQC PIR as a mark of Outstanding (www.laddertothemoon.co.uk) further evidence this innovative thinking which is sometimes unheralded.
It is with the growth of local care associations / alliances, will further improve the collaboration and innovation in the care sector. Developing a long-term future of outstanding care for individuals who need it. We all know that care is inevitable and the private care sector will be leading the developments in care, encouraging from within to what is already becoming a brighter future for all concerned.