Venus Healthcare CEO proud of progress in specialist residential care, but challenges remain
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Venus Group UK is an entity making ripples in various industries. Many arms of the business trace their roots as far back as 1995, with the group active in the property and construction fields, corporate solutions, trading, capital and the not-for-profit sector among others through its subsidiaries.

However, the proudly independent group of companies is perhaps making some of its most notable progress in the specialist care industry, having been active in the sector since 2004 through subsidiary Venus Healthcare Homes, which forms part of the group’s construction portfolio.

Much of its success in this sector is owed to Venus’ progressive approach to care, according to CEO Khin Nadarajah.

“From the day of opening the doors to our first home, we have adopted a very progressive approach to care, accepting challenge as part of the job and reaching out to anyone in need, especially to service-users who have been failed elsewhere in the care system,” Khin told The Parliamentary Review.

“By always working collaboratively and in partnership with commissioning groups, social workers and families, we have built up a reputation of trust for the quality and safety of care we provide. In everything we do, we strive to improve the quality of life of those in our care and to do so with compassion and understanding. We are committed to upholding the rights of every individual to enable them to make the choices they want and exercise their own freedom for self-determination.

“We use assisted technology to plan and create remarkable journeys for each individual, embracing every opportunity to give expression about the person they are, respect their dignity and strengthen their self-esteem.”

For all Venus’ incredible work, however, its time working in care has not passed without challenge. One of the most significant, according to Khin, can be traced back to 2016 when the Care Quality Commission [CQC] set out its framework for the design of accommodation and personal care.

The regulator’s document outlining this, titled Registering the Right Support, initially stated that schemes should be for no more than six occupants. Following a consultation period, subsequent guidance was issued in June 2017 that acknowledged “the need to have a measure of flexibility in regard to the size of services”.

In practice, Khin believes that by doing this, the CQC has rigidly adhered to the concept of limiting accommodation for people to very small numbers, on the basis that services of more than six people could easily become institutionalised.

“In following this approach, the CQC has created a rod for its own back,” Khin explained.

“On the one hand, it has failed to recognise that for investors such as our company, with a genuine commitment and, as importantly, the means to provide more services, it is barely economically viable to purchase and operate smaller residential units. As a result of this, the regulated sector is failing to expand sufficiently to meet current needs.”

This also has a knock-on effect on the quality of care issued, with a secondary care market now allowed to grow, which the watchdog is unable to keep in check.

Khin added: “The CQC’s restriction on size has inadvertently led to the mushrooming of a secondary care market typically comprised of larger residential homes over which the CQC has no jurisdiction or control. This situation is concerning.

“In these quasi-care homes, which operate under the radar and without CQC’s scrutiny, service users are more likely to receive a poor quality of care and, worse still, be vulnerable to abuse. More specifically, as many of these homes are based away from the large conurbations, and therefore offer cheaper placements than the ‘regulated’ and smaller inner-city homes, this has given local authorities – often in London – a reason to farm out service users to these quasi-care homes often in the North and the Midlands – frequently far removed from the service users’ home and families, and which have little or no duty of care.”

Elsewhere, issues within the planning system are posing a barrier to Venus’ own expansion ambitions, with the group planning to open its first care village in the future.

Khin highlighted: “Plans for the opening of Venus’s first care village are at an advanced stage. However, another major obstacle has been identified that requires legislative action if conditions such as dementia are to be accorded the provision of care that is required. This obstacle can be summed up in a single four-letter word: ‘land’.

“There is an urgent requirement to relax planning restrictions, particularly for local authorities, so that land in or near to the large conurbations, where the highest numbers of elderly are concentrated, can be released for new builds.

“In tandem with this, new legislation should also prohibit cash-strapped hospitals and NHS trusts from selling land to commercial developers before it is offered instead to bona fide developers committed to increasing the capacity of care in the community.”

Khin remains adamant that the independent healthcare sector has a critical role to play in shaping and providing care services in the future but warned that it needs government support and legislative changes to fulfil its potential in this area.

“The independent healthcare sector has a major role to play in shaping, and providing, services for people falling within the scope of the transforming care agenda. This can only be achieved with government support and interventions where necessary, ensuring that business creativity and technological innovation is not strangled.”

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