Together we were great this year, and together we’ll be even greater in 2018

CEO Steve White looks back at Balhousie’s hugely successful year.

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It’s that time of year – of Top Tens, of Favourite Moments, of Stories That Shook the World. And as we round off a hugely exciting and successful year here at Balhousie Care Group, I thought it was time to come up with our own ‘listicle’. In no particular order, here goes:

1. The Participation Charter. We launched the Charter as a natural progression to our Together We’re Great initiative, and it’s seen tremendous results. Asking our residents what they want from their care, and consulting with them on their own care home policies, was a bold move. It was also necessary for a company committed to putting people at the heart of everything it does. I got my own up-close-and-personal look at the Charter before I even took up my role here as CEO. Interviewing me for the job were panels of Balhousie staff, residents and family members. I can honestly say it was one of the toughest, but ultimately insightful, interview experiences of my career. Luckily for me, I seemed to pass muster.

2. Back in profit and raring to go. After a period of financial and structural fluctuation, we finally saw the fruits of a company-wide turnaround. Thanks to the vision of Chairman Tony Banks, our senior management team, and an incredible amount of hard work and commitment from Balhousie’s 1300 staff, we were in the black. Which brings me to…

3. The Refinancing. A £49m refinancing deal was inked earlier this year which paves the way for even better things for Balhousie Care. It means more financial security and investments to our came homes and operations.

4. Top care home ratings. For the first time, we achieved top ratings of Grade 6 from the Care Inspectorate. For our Wheatlands care home, their achievement was a double whammy as they made history by becoming the first care home in its region to win the ‘excellent’ rating. Our Auchterarder care home, Ruthven Towers, quickly followed, with Grade 6’s for management and leadership, care and support.

5. Awards a-plenty. The Care Inspectorate wasn’t the only one to recognise our excellence. 2017 was a year when we saw care home and head office staff win a host of industry awards, both regional and UK-wide. Those included having finalists in: the Dementia awards, the Scottish Care Awards and the UK’s National Care Awards. It was the first time we’d entered the national awards, we sent three staff down to London for the ceremony. Operations Director Louise Barnett came back clutching the trophy for UK Operations Manager of the Year – a fitting and well-deserved accolade, and one that not only puts Balhousie Care Group but also Scotland on the care industry map.

6. We turned 25. Our anniversary saw yearlong celebrations throughout the group and within our homes. This focussed on celebrating our heritage, our people and our partners. We’re proud of where we’ve come from and what we’ve achieved so our day of celebration in September at Piperdam near Dundee was well deserved – a chance to give ourselves a huge pat on the back and renew our commitment to a fresh, exciting new direction for Balhousie.

7. Alastrean re-opened. Our historic Aberdeenshire care home was badly damaged by a fire two years ago, although thankfully nobody was hurt. November saw the home, set in the stunning countryside around Tarland, re-open. We called it a phoenix rising from the ashes, and it was no exaggeration. A complete re-fit inside –overseen by our in-house interior design team - has turned Alastrean into our flagship home, and one that sets a new gold standard for excellence across our group.

8. Dementia Care. And while we’re on the subject of excellence, you don’t get any better than Balhousie’s dementia programmes. Each care home now has one or more ‘dementia ambassadors’, staff who are instrumental in putting our innovative programmes in place. Everything from sensory gardens to inter-generational activities to virtual reality headsets are being used to enhance the lives of those with dementia and cognitive decline. Our dementia consultant Yvonne Manson is becoming a respected national voice on the subject.

9. Sleep in the Park. For me personally this was one of the highlights of 2017 as it sums up what we are: a company which makes a business out of caring but which also – through charity and community initiatives - makes caring its business. We sent a team of 20 to take part in Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park event in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens, which saw 9,000 people bedding down in sleeping bags to raise awareness, and money, for homelessness. Not only did we make the Top 10 list of corporate fundraisers, with £16,000 raised, but we toughed it out, and we bonded. Our team ranged from care assistants right up to myself and Chairman Tony Banks. Together we really were great, if a bit cold. Oh, and Sir Bob Geldof modelled one of our hats. It doesn’t really get any better than that in terms of celebrity endorsement!

10. Opening our doors for Christmas. Finally, while we love to celebrate over the festive period, we also love to extend the hand of friendship. Our 25 care homes have strong links to their local communities. Which puts us in a perfect position address an increasing problem in our society – loneliness and isolation – by opening our doors to people this Christmas Day. Each of our homes are working with local authorities to extend an invitation to people who may be spending Christmas alone. Why? Because we can.

So those are my Top 10 Moments for Balhousie. I know 2018 will see many more. It’s an exciting chapter for us, and I couldn’t be prouder to be part of it.