Raj Singh has spoken with pride about his plans to further expand his Prestige Care Group, which now employs nearly 500 professional staff across five high-quality Tees Valley care centres following a £25m investment in the business.
The Ingleby Barwick-headquartered care group has launched three new care centres over the past 12 months – with plans for two more over the next six months.
With further investment pending, Raj has now set his sights on offering beds to more than 1,000 local people by the end of 2020.
But, he says, it is the quality, not the quantity, where Prestige are focused, with the group raising the bar to unprecedented new heights within the care industry.
An 84-bed specialist care facility was described as “sitting at the top tier of dementia care” when it opened in Middleton St George, near Teesside International Airport, recently following a £750,000 refurbishment. The unit spearheads Prestige’s ‘brand within a brand’ launch of Auguste Communities.
Combining high-quality care with state-of-the-art technology, Prestige has become one of the North-East’s first care centres to invest in Tovertafel – an innovation dubbed “the magic table” – and Snoezelen multisensory rooms and portable wagons, Dutch technology designed to reach hearts and minds sometimes assumed ‘lost’ to dementia.
Auguste Communities is the first of a new generation of care homes being developed by Prestige, combining high-quality person-centred nursing care within research-based environments and incorporating ‘activity lifestyles’ and state-of-the-art technology.
Prestige now runs five Tees Valley care centres – two in Redcar, one in Middlesbrough, one in Ingleby Barwick and the latest at Middleton St George.
Occupancy is running at around 90% across their 434 beds, with each centre supporting a mix of residential and nursing provision and day placement through to end-of-life care.
A new 94-bed care facility in Hartlepool will soon take them beyond 500 beds, planning permission is in place for a third Redcar centre, whilst the Prestige team is currently in negotiations to purchase further facilities.
Last year’s £25m investment from London-based Real Estate Investment Trust was, according to Raj, “the game changer”.
“That investment has made a real impact,” he says. “The group is now in a very healthy position. We bought the Redcar centre and we’re in negotiations for a couple more that we hope to complete in the near future.
“But we’re ambitious for further growth, so we have an ongoing dialogue with other funders and potential investors. We’re actively looking for a further investment to allow further expansion.”
Despite the rapid recent expansion after 25 years in the care business, Raj insists all growth plans are being carefully drawn in a way that minimises any financial risks.
“We’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” he says. “We’re growing steadily and everything we do is built on the solid foundations of the past 25 years. We’ve had opportunities to take on another two or three homes but I didn’t want us to spread ourselves too thin.
“If you’re an entrepreneur, you have to be a risk taker but it’s about taking calculated risks.”
Raj gives much of the credit for the group’s strong standing to his fellow directors, Paul Smith and Andy Johnson, with Paul putting standards and systems in place while Andy takes care of the finances.
He says: “We’ve invested heavily in ensuring the very best systems are in place – and responsibility for that lays with Paul, who has huge experience and knowledge of the care industry, while we’re always on the look-out for high quality registered managers.”
For Raj, it’s all a far cry from the small Redcar newsagents that saw him start out in business.
“I do have to pinch myself sometimes,” he admits. “It’s been a long journey but very rewarding too. I still get that thrill of doing a deal or creating a successful new care home. I suppose it’s in the blood.”
While growth plans may see Prestige invest beyond the Tees Valley, Raj promises the group’s roots will stay firmly embedded in the Tees region.
“I grew up in Middlesbrough and that local attachment is still there. Like Steve Gibson and others, I want to give back to the community I feel part of. When I think about the local jobs I’ve created, that gives me more satisfaction than anything else.”