A nurse and her dairy farmer husband say they have reverted to an “old-fashioned” approach to quality in launching a home care business serving rural communities.
North Yorkshire couple Fiona and John Leggott say they established Blossom Home Care, which launched in September, after identifying gaps in care for people from farming families.
“We have gone back to old-fashioned care where we go in and have a genuine relationship with the client like we’re an extension of their family”
“We had a couple of relatives from an agricultural background who couldn’t stay in their own homes because they couldn’t get carers,” said registered nurse Ms Leggott, who has worked in both hospital and community care.
“When I was a district nurse I found service users were sometimes not getting the care they required because it was unreliable with people turning up at different times of the day and rushing,” she said.
Other issues include the fact farmers often have substantial assets that mean they do not qualify for social services, as well as the practical challenges of delivering care in more remote areas.
The pair initially looked at becoming part of an existing care franchise but said they were not impressed.
“We looked long and hard at some of the big franchises and went to see franchise directors, but we felt none of them genuinely wanted to promote good care and were more interested in high turnover,” said Mr Leggott.
“We felt we could do a better job for clients and have gone back to old-fashioned care where we go in and have a genuine relationship with the client like we’re an extension of their family,” he said.
“Clients are happy to pay because they know the service they are getting is reliable and the girls are well-mannered, respectful and experienced,” he told Nursing Times.
The company, which prides itself on its personal approach, currently employs 14 care workers who are supported by Ms Leggott and business manager Pauline Midgeley, also a qualified nurse.
Care workers are expected to hold relevant NVQ qualifications or work towards them when taken on and have previous experience of working in the care sector.
Based in Northallerton and serving those living within a radius of about 20 miles, the company provides the full spectrum of home care and visits are a minimum of 50 minutes long.
Innovations include an online service that allows relatives to log in and see when carers have been, what they did and a rota of future visits.
“We always keep the times the same so people know when we are coming in, which is something of a novelty in home care,” said Ms Leggott, who continues to work part-time on an acute surgical ward at large hospital, as well as being a company director.
“When I was a district nurse I found service users were sometimes not getting the care they required”
She said it was vital to have the expertise of qualified nurses within the team to support and advise staff, liaise with local GPs and report health concerns, identify and sort out medication issues and co-ordinate with district nursing teams, allied health professionals and other support services.
The firm has developed its own holistic assessment designed to ensure all of a client’s health and social care needs are being met.
“Our whole ethos around is helping people live independently in their own homes and preventing unnecessary hospital admissions and our health assessment is a vital part of that,” said Ms Leggott.
It includes a urine dipstick test that has helped identify undiagnosed urinary tract infections, checks whether people have had relevant NHS screening and identifies if they need any equipment or home adaptations.
“The other way we are very different is that we will do anything a client would like is to do,” said Mr Leggott. “For example, if they want to go shopping, that’s not a problem or want to go and watch their daughter at the riding school, we’re quite happy to take them. Other companies won’t do that because it’s too much of an inconvenience.”
He said the company made a point of offering staff better pay and terms and conditions than the majority of other home care companies.
“Other care companies pay staff around £7 an hour but we pay ours £9,” he said. “If you have a driving licence and a vehicle you can earn £8 as a delivery driver so we upped our payscales to attract the best people.”
The couple said they hoped to expand and would like to open a second office in the near future. The firm, which supports around 24 people at the moment, is already looking to recruit another registered nurse.
Mr Leggott, who continues to run his farm alongside being a company director, said there were some parallels with the farming business.
“The farm is staffed nearly 24 hours and at Blossom we run staff 24 hours a day and that’s where the similarities are,” he said.
“They are both staff-based businesses. We have 700 to 800 cattle on the farm so it’s a serious issue if staff don’t turn up and it is the same with home care – we cannot afford to fail our clients.”
The fact he is up very early each day on the farm can be a help, he added.
“I’m awake before the girls so when they can’t find a house at 6.30am it’s not an issue to tell them where it is,” he said. “Sometimes they apologise for getting me up and I point out I’ve been out of bed for four hours.”