A GIANT of the UK social care sector says investing in his staff has been one of the main reasons for his success.
Mike Parsons, the founder and former chief executive of Barchester Healthcare, was a keynote speaker at the recent meeting of the Wrexham Business Professionals where he shared some of the secrets of his phenomenal achievement of transforming just one small care home into billion pound brand leader with around 300 homes.
Wrexham Business Professionals is a group of professional firms of solicitors and accountants who collaborate on a non-competitive basis to promote the development of businesses, skills and employment opportunities for professional people.
Mr Parsons was guest of honour at their recent meeting at the town’s Ramada Plaza Hotel which took as its theme the “Business of Age” and attracted an 80-strong audience of members from across North Wales.
His business is viewed by many as one of the health sector’s true “success stories” and an example of how future healthcare should function.
He formed Barchester Healthcare in 1994 after a career in advertising that saw him rise to the position of Chief Operating Officer for Saatchi & Saatchi’s international business.
He also spent two years in the USA where he researched various new business ideas including long term care. He was particularly impressed with many of the Assisted Living facilities he saw in the US.
After returning to the UK in 1992, he set up Country Life Care Centres which merged with Eskgrove in 1994 to form Barchester Healthcare.
Earlier this year Barchester was listed in the Sunday Times Top 26 big companies to work for and one of Britain’s Top Employers 2013, and last year Mr Parsons was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the prestigious Wales Care Awards.
In 2013 he retired as Chief Executive Officer but remains on the board of Grove, Barchester’s holding company.
Mr Parsons told Wrexham Business Professionals that investing in people and “building a great team” had been one of the main themes running through various stages of his highly successful career.
He said: “In the field of care continuity of people is so vital. People like to see familiar faces and want their nurses and carers to be the same day after day, which is particularly true if someone has dementia.
“Barchester has created an academy for the training of its staff which, I am proud to say, now numbers between 16,000 and 17,000 people.
“The academy is a fully accredited degree-awarding body and over the years thousands of staff have been through it.
“Staff turnover in care is particularly high but our experience with the academy has shown that if you give people a proper career pathway this drops by two-thirds.”
Mr Parsons also spoke of Barchester’s successful apprenticeship scheme and explained: “This started five years ago with just five people and last year had over 1,000 apprentices – which is more than Rolls Royce.
“Four of the original five apprentices are still with us. They have moved up and progressed and are now managers in positions of some authority.
“Our apprenticeship scheme has been all about building a great team. It’s about taking young people, giving them a job and giving them a purpose.”
The invitation to Mr Parsons to address Wrexham Business Professionals was made on the group’s behalf by Mario Kreft, the proprietor of the Wrexham-based Pendine Park care organisation who is also the Chair of Care Forum Wales and the founder of the Wales Care Awards.
In his speech Mr Parsons had warm praise for Mr Kreft and his wife Gill for the “superb set-up” they had created at Pendine Park.
He also agreed with remarks made by Mr Kreft in his own speech earlier that a “perfect storm” had been created by a combination of a growing ageing population, a continuing reduction in public spending and problems in recruiting and adequate number of care staff.
But despite this, said Mr Kreft, there were “very definite opportunities” created by this situation.
He said: “Investing in social care makes good economic sense as it underpins the NHS.
“We have to invest in social care in the community, invest in new technologies and invest in our workforces.
“If the perfect storm is not counterbalanced we will have a society where people won’t be able to get into hospitals and where they will not be able to remain the community.
“It is therefore also essential that we keep the cost of care down and try where possible to keep people healthy.”
Simon Griffiths, a member of the Wrexham Business Professionals, thanked all the speakers for their contributions.
He said: “The theme of the event was highly topical at a time of squeezed budgets and soaring need in terms of social care.
“While there are obviously many challenges to be face, we must also remember that social care is a force for economic good and a major employer that can offer excellent career prospects to those who want to progress.”