Jeremy’s Blog

Jeremy WalfordJeremy Walford, Managing Director
Middleton Hall Retirement Village.

“My personal views, comments and thoughts on subjects and topics related to retirement living”.

Keep Calm but Let’s not just Carry On

November 2016

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The current affairs discussion group seems to be growing in popularity – we regularly have slightly more residents than can comfortably sit round a table these days. It remains broadly unpredictable however.

I can rarely guess the topics that the group will choose to discuss each week. I normally select four or five potential topics from my favourite newspaper (BBC website) and the group choose one or two that they fancy having some intelligent debate about. Some topics are humorous. Some serious. Some seem both (Step forward Mr Trump. Ah. That’s no longer a joke).

We recently took on the serious and relevant crisis in care to talk about.

Nursing homes are closing every week and providers have started to pull out of home care contracts. These now include not for profit providers. When the not for profit sector cannot make care stack up, the government should pay attention. Middleton Hall and the top quality providers are generally not reliant on publicly funded clients, so are very fortunate.

I am not going to blame local councils. The simple fact is that they do not have enough money and with the advent of the so called National Living Wage increasing costs it is no surprise that 15 minute care visits at homes still exist and care providers are struggling.

Of course, all this has an impact on the other rather large elephant in the room. The NHS. More elderly people ending up in hospital sometimes becoming “bed blockers”. Lack of social care resulting in more hospital admissions.

When the NHS was created in 1948 (along with the origins of modern social care), hospitals put a few limbs in plaster and whipped out the odd appendix. Life expectancy was 66 for men and 71 for women. Medical care has got a great deal more complicated now and consequently a great deal more expensive. In 1948, the budget for drugs was £30M. It is now over £15B.

We live in a different world now. Once we reach 65 we now have almost 20 years to live. Which means potentially 20 years not working or paying tax but increasingly using public services.

Surely it is time to accept that we cannot sustain this. Which means many of us in the future will have to pay – for healthcare as well as social care. And yet, no political party is prepared to break for cover and admit that is what is needed.

One member of the discussion group is a retired doctor. Even when she was still working, it was clear to her that a free for all NHS was no longer possible. The rest of the group all agreed that people would have to pay. But why do our political leaders refuse to raise the possibility?

“It is not really voter friendly” concluded the group. And they were honest enough to admit they would be reluctant to vote for a party that proposed charging for the NHS. A slight element of turkeys voting for Christmas perhaps.

But surely it is time to be realistic. The current system is clearly unsustainable. So how about some political honesty in at least talking about the reality – and the long term solutions?

The Care Act was never going to solve the problem, but of course was a vote winner for retired people believing they would not lose their savings paying for care and for their families thinking their inheritance was safe. The current generation of baby boomers is wealthier than the previous generation, largely due to unprecedented house price inflation and threatens to live even longer. So it is hardly unreasonable that we should have to pay for increasingly expensive healthcare and social care.

So, let’s be calm about the current care crisis but not just carry on.

Olympics at Middleton Hall

August 2016

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The Rio Olympics have drawn to a close.  Britain has again exceeded expectations.  Who would have thought in 1996 after the Atlanta Olympics (Britain 1 Gold Medal; 36th place in the medals table) that 20 years later, Britain would be second in the medals table with 27 Gold medals?

And who would have thought in 1996 that a failing care home business in the north of England would still exist let alone be abuzz with sport 20 years later?  Even I, full of ideas for Middleton Hall in 1996, might have been surprised in time travelling to 2016 with what I would see.

A lot can change in 20 years.

The last two weeks at Middleton Hall have been full of great examples of people exceeding expectations.  The Spa team organised a Rio Challenge with medals available for residents from services in all corners of Middleton Hall participating in a variety of events including Samba style aqua and exercise classes, Olympic Rings, Shot Putt and Orienteering.  The Independent Living Sports Day was a highly competitive day of bowling, golf, boules and table tennis and the Residents versus Staff Sports Day …. well let’s just say the staff came second.  It seems the residents, in line with the British Cycling team just practise a little bit harder.

The Rio style barbecue and podium presentation on Wednesday evening after the Residents v Staff matches ended up with over 60 people (amazingly the BBQ stretched well!) eating and drinking inside and outside the Orangery.

In 1996, I believed that the Middleton Hall of the future should be a place where people would aspire to live and where residents could improve their lifestyle.  Seeing residents in all our services enthused in so many ways over the last two weeks tells me that it is indeed that place.

And I hope that the wider British population, especially those at the other end of the age spectrum, will also be enthused by Rio.  Because sport can really make a difference.

Business and Crossing the Road

June 2016

BHS

 

This is the third blog that I have written since the last one on our website. The previous two turned into political rants which I self-censored.  There are plenty of skilled commentators and bloggers to do that job. George Osborne should be able to safely read this, my third attempt.

I spent some of last Wednesday evening staring at the BBC website in disbelief.

 “Premier League liar…. Fingers in the till…. Sunday pub-league retailer….”

These extraordinary accusations were not between teenagers in the school yard or in some sort of sinister pantomime, but within the hallowed walls of the House of Commons. The opinions of a former Chief Executive about his boss, the owner of his company.  Oh and, of course a death threat.  Followed up by the alleged purveyor of death threats blaming the former owner for a company going into liquidation.  The former owner then threatened not to attend unless the MP chairing the hearing stood down.  (That is the knighted former owner who lives in Monaco for health reasons.  Just a coincidence that it also has a reputation as a tax haven of course).  Then there is the wife allegedly benefiting from a £50M property windfall carried out with the struggling retailer.  Good of her to try and help out of course.

And today the knighted former owner is testifying. More blaming others.

All normal behaviour for BHS directors it seems. The remarkable accusations and counter accusations that took place at the House of Commons hearing about the demise of BHS and the implications for its 11,000 employees and 20,000 pension scheme members.  The worst side of business hanging out its very dirty laundry.

Businesses are designed to make money and there is of course nothing wrong with that. They create jobs and provide products and services for us all.  There are shareholders to reward and bank loans to repay.  However, surely business is not just about making money?  Or pocketing as much as possible in the case of BHS.

As a director and shareholder of a medium sized company, it would always seem important to remember that we are responsible at Middleton Hall for employing over 150 people and looking after what will shortly be 180 older people. We are also responsible for looking after a beautiful location in the countryside and we have responsibilities towards the local community to consider.  Overall, there are many things to consider as someone who leads a business.

Things do go wrong in business. We all make mistakes.  However, I trust that the mess that became BHS is not the image that people have of most employers in the UK.  I would like to think that most business owners care rather more responsibly for the implications of their decisions than the owners of BHS appear to have done.

Sustainable business has to be more than just about making money.

I have always hoped that I will never have to cross the road to avoid someone that we at Middleton Hall have not done our best for.

There may be at least one former business owner who might be crossing some roads in the future.

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