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”.

Parties and Profit

August 2017








How do you measure success?  Bottom line profit?  Achieving targets?  Company growth? 

Of course, financial results are incredibly important to all businesses but that is not really how I judge whether Middleton Hall is successful.  If I ever have any doubts about success, I find going to a party a good test.

I have recently attended three parties at Middleton Hall – our annual Fun Day, Middleton Court’s celebration of 10 years since opening and as a guest at the party that one of our Middleton Woods residents throws each year.  My fellow director Lesley also enjoyed attending the Middleton Oaks summer party on Saturday.  It is at those events that I really get a sense of what we are achieving at Middleton Hall. 

Many staff were involved in putting together the Fun Day (Wizard of Oz theme this year) with great creativity, huge enthusiasm, and a lot of hard work.  Their efforts were rewarded with a large turnout and as one resident said to me “I don’t think I have ever seen so many smiling faces”.

Middleton Court opened 10 years ago as a new facility for nursing care clients. I well remember several owners of nursing homes telling me it could never work with only 20 beds (and what on earth were we doing installing full en-suite shower rooms for nursing care?).  Their considerably larger businesses were of course cost driven models and what they failed to realise is that there is an alternative quality driven model.  Middleton Court was full within six weeks of opening in 2007 and has consistently received very high customer satisfaction.  The party to celebrate its 10th anniversary was full of cheerful residents and families pleased that we have stuck with nursing care.  Most of our doubters have since given up even providing nursing care.

At the Middleton Woods private party that I was honoured to attend, there was a buzz around the restaurant and much jollity.  I was telling some of my fellow guests about an incident not long after the first residents moved in ten years ago.  I was at work late one night and walked past the bar around 10pm and heard some laughter coming from a group of residents sat in the bar following a meal in the restaurant.  When I put my head round the door, one of them enquired if we did “lock-in’s”.  Obviously, Middleton Hall would not condone out of hours drinking, but I did walk away delighted with the spirit (in both senses) of our pioneering new residents in 2007. 

Of course, we need to make good profits and achieve financial returns on the considerable investment made into the business to repay debt and reinvest for the future.  However, as a retirement village, all that investment would not make any sense if we did not make a positive difference to the lives of our customers at Middleton Hall. 

So a good party is perhaps the real test of success at Middleton Hall. 

Promises Promises

May 2017

So we have a “snap election”. Some election bribes have been offered out (students clearly being part of Labour’s target market) and of course politicians on all sides are offering to throw money at the NHS.

Briefly there appeared to be some space opening up in policy terms around social care, before the Conservative party rushed into a U turn after some newspapers used the dreaded “dementia tax” label.

Amidst all this debate (some even focussing on policy rather than personality), it would be great to see courage and leadership shown about the problems in the NHS and Social Care. I fear this will not happen.

Before the election announcement, the government announced a green paper on the future of social care. Yet another no doubt lengthy report that will follow the usual routine. Concerns will be raised about funding, government will feel discomfort about how to deal with the issues so end up playing for time – preferably so the next government will have to deal with it.

The spectre of funding for social care has been stalking the corridors of different governments for over 10 years now and despite various Royal Commissions, Green Papers, White Papers and some actual laws nothing has really changed. The last attempt emanating from the Dilnot Commission produced the Care Act which included the infamous care cap. When the Department of Health finally realised the impact that it would have on the social care market as well as public funding, it was booted into the long grass until 2020 (conveniently after the next election was then due).

And that has been the way of the last 10 or more years. Put it off. Preferably until someone else will have to deal with it.

But neither the NHS nor social care industry can wait. More importantly, nor can older people trapped in hospital beds, in underfunded care homes or receiving inadequate care at home. Crisis is perhaps a rather overused term, but the social care crisis is now real.

Middleton Hall is fortunate in having customers who recognise that they want quality and are prepared to pay for it. But that is only part of the market. Those who do not have that choice are being ill served by our political masters.

History suggests that no government is really prepared to deal with the problem. And with a five year (or less when that is more convenient) election cycle, it is always too easy to find a way of putting it off. So let’s not have more reports or commissions. Let’s have some courage.

Courage for a cross party agreement, not an election gimmick. Courage to face up to the uncomfortable truth.

The truth that we can no longer afford to maintain either the NHS or social care without either accepting that many of us will have to pay more tax or many of us will have to pay for our care.

So party leaders – how about some real leadership? Never mind the election gimmicks and whether someone has the right charisma or dress sense to be Prime Minister but how about someone prepared to speak the truth. We cannot have a low tax economy and high quality public services – especially with something as important as social and health care.

No more vague promises or putting it off. Just be honest with we electors.

“Getting Better Never Stops”

March 2017

Although not any sort of rugby expert, I do enjoy watching Rugby Union. The Six Nations has been interesting this season – England’s winning run equalling the world record and Scotland appearing to provide serious opposition. Until they met England on Saturday at Twickenham that is.

England have extended their winning run to 18 consecutive wins and if they beat Ireland next Saturday will have achieved back to back grand slams in the Six Nations. Interestingly though, for most of the Six Nations they have not actually played terribly well.   In some matches they barely turned up for the first half. Despite that they keep winning, which is perhaps a sign of a good team.

On Saturday, they managed to turn up for both halves and Scotland’s new found pride did not last long (nor that of their female counterparts after an equally uncomfortable encounter against the potential grand slam winning England Women). England suddenly looked like real champions. Comparisons with the New Zealand All Blacks may seem premature (beating the All Blacks is not, yet, part of their winning run). However, there are some parallels with the 2003 World Cup winning side.

England won the 2003 World Cup for many reasons. One of those reasons was the drive, leadership and determination of captain (Martin Johnson) and the vision and planning of coach (Sir Clive Woodward). One of Clive’s catch phrases was “Getting Better Never Stops”.

Having previously written about the All Blacks’ values in my blog, another Rugby/Middleton Hall comparison springs to mind.

Last week, Middleton Hall Retirement Village was awarded the coveted “Outstanding” by CQC (Care Quality Commission) following a three day, unannounced inspection in January. Only 0.5% of care homes have achieved “Outstanding”. But Middleton Hall achieved something more impressive – our outstanding team achieved the very rare feat of being rated as outstanding in all five key areas of that CQC inspection. The Grand Slam of Outstanding.

As a result, we received a visit from Debbie Westhead (Deputy Chief Inspector, CQC) last Thursday and also met Andrea Sutcliffe (Chief Inspector, CQC) at an awards dinner that evening. Both asked me how I felt about our outstanding achievement. I said that, in honesty, I had mixed feelings about it. Because I am worried that people might confuse this achievement with being the destination rather than a step on the journey.

You see, I truly feel that Middleton Hall can improve much further and that we still have far more work to do.

Sir Clive Woodward’s mantra is the point. Getting Better Never Stops.