A FAMILY-owned care home business is aiming to roll out its new concept of building private retirement apartments next to its homes, so owners can buy in services as and when they need them.
Helen McArdle Care will open its flagship new home next month on the former site of the Springfield Hotel in Gateshead. In addition to the home, the business has built 21 retirement apartments connected to the home, which has a restaurant, cinema room and wellbeing centre.
Managing director Mark McArdle said: “You can live in an apartment, completely independently or wander into the care home and benefit from its services, or buy in services.
“There might come a time when it makes sense for you to move into the care home.
“The benefit is that it has a Helen McArdle care home on site. As your needs develop or your health deteriorates, we are catering for every eventuality.
“If it’s successful, we’ll roll this out – we’ve got lots of bits of land around the North East.”
The development, which cost around £7m, has already sold three apartments and received more than 80 enquiries.
“I think it’s unique in the North East. It’s seemed to be a logical process to our At Home domiciliary care and Life Begins day centres,” said McArdle, whose mother Helen started the Gateshead business 20 years ago and is still a “driving force” in the company.
The original care home business had 24 homes, which were sold for £100m to a London firm, before the company returned to the market in 2008.
It now has 13 homes – the 68-resident Springfield home will be the 14th – and also runs eight nurseries under the Kids 1st brand. The ninth nursery in the award-winning chain is due to open in Low Fell in March.
Kids 1st, which has 300 staff and has boosted turnover from £5.5m in 2010 to £7m in 2011, was named the UK’s best nursery chain in November by Nursery World, based on its Ofsted results.
Although McArdle is currently seeking planning permission for another care home in Whitley Bay, he says the business will not grow to an unwieldy size.
“Helen, my mother, is very keen we retain our strength as a family business and people don’t regard us as corporate. That’s the worst thing you could say to us,” he said.
“We’ve still got room for expansion but not much more. But we won’t stand still.”
Since returning to the sector, the care home division of the company has grown to 730 staff and its turnover has jumped to around £20m this year from £17m last year.
McArdle is adamant the firm will never fall into a similar trap to collapsed Darlington company Southern Cross, which was unable to pay the landlords that owned its buildings.
McArdle said: “We are control freaks. We buy the land, we build them and run them.”