Thank you to the UK Home Care Association for organising a number of interesting sessions in the Homecare Theatre at the Care Show in Bournemouth last week.
I was lucky enough to sit in on the ‘Future Challenges in Homecare’ session led by Bridget Warr, the Chief Executive of UKHCA, with panellists including Dominique Kent, Director of Operations, The Good Care Group and Paul Tarsey, Chairman of the Bluebird Care Group.
The one topic that I felt really stood out was the panel’s belief in the inevitability of private pay replacing local government as the key funder of homecare services. According to Dominique Kent, there are approximately 650,000 recipients of homecare services in the UK with the state currently funding over 60%.
As Paul Tarsey pointed out, the aging population and an increase in the dependency ratio (fewer working people relative to those needing support) will make it impossible for the state to provide homecare at current levels. According to Bridget Warr, the Care Bill making its way through parliament will be a key driver of private pay: a very significant amount of homecare over a long period can be provided within the £72,000 cap that comes into effect in April 2016. According to the UKHCA, this could equal up to 2.3 years on an intense package of 40 hours a week (or as long as 9 years on a 10 hours a week package).
The new consumer is Mick Jagger, not Vera Lynn
Even without a significant roll-back of the state’s support for social care, there is little doubt about the increasing importance of the individuals and family making care choices. Individual budgets (with the ability to top up?) and choice are the direction of travel for state funded health and social care.
The bottom line is that we, according to Paul Tarsey, need to brace ourselves for service users that will act more like traditional consumers. So what does that mean? Service users of the future are less likely to be grateful for ‘anything they get’ compared with the WWII generation. They will be more vocal in complaining, less loyal and less accepting of poor service.
This ‘consumerisation’ will have profound effects on the homecare industry. Bidding on large contracts, around or below the minimum wage, will become less important compared with the delivery of a high quality, reliable and friendly service. Yes, the sales and marketing approach will change, however, without a reputation (on and offline!) of delivering high quality, providers will not be able to attract and keep customers.
At a basic-level, providers must get the fundamentals right: recruit and train staff, avoid delayed/missed visits and respond to changing needs. At the next level, successful providers will become better at documenting outcomes, measuring satisfaction and involving next of kin.
Are you ready?