Agincare: a family business

The story of how an innovative vision for the future of care homes was the beginning of a strong and sustainable care provider, with family at its heart.

Agincare’s founder and chairman, Derek Luckhurst, started his career in the defence industry, gaining valuable experience in procurement, pricing, and contract law, and rising to a senior role.

But longer-term Derek wanted to be in control of his own destiny and saw starting a company as a way to make the most of his entrepreneurial and strategic vision.

An innovative vision for the future of care homes

In the mid-1980s so-called ‘geriatric’ wards in hospitals were full, prompting a boom in care homes and domiciliary care.

At that time many care homes offered their residents minimal facilities in soulless buildings. With characteristic foresight, Derek spotted a gap in the market for a new style of care home, one which offered high-quality personalised care and facilities at a really affordable price.

Now was the time to follow his instincts and take the plunge into owning his own care home.

The first care home

In 1986 Derek bought a care home in Weymouth and named it Agincourt. It was the first of a line of care homes to be named after famous historical battles.

The birth of a family company

The Luckhurst family lived on site at Agincourt, all working on renovating the building. Being involved in the day-to-day business meant Derek got to know care inside-out, even down to delivering care himself.

“Being so hands-on gave me a vital understanding of care, which I still value today. When I talk to our care staff, I can hand on heart tell them that I know the highs and lows of working in care. I truly understand the challenges faced by the people on the frontline.”

Agincourt quickly filled with residents and Derek realised he needed to expand to keep up with demand. He extended Agincourt, then bought a second care home, Bosworth, and a third, Crecy – all in Weymouth.

Bringing home care into the company

The Community Care Act in 1990 firmly placed an emphasis on caring for people in their own homes.

Building on Agincourt’s good local reputation, Derek saw an opportunity to expand the organisation. He created independent care provider Agincare to deliver domiciliary care, as well as manage his growing portfolio of care homes.

Agincare was one of the first care providers in the country to be awarded a local authority block contract for home care for older people.

“We started delivering domiciliary care with half-a-dozen care workers. Our HQ was in the family home. We lived and breathed Agincare, and it’s still my passion.”

A financially sustainable and secure organisation

Agincare has expanded over the years by offering local authorities and private clients quality care at a competitive price. It’s a very successful formula.

Derek admits he’s always been a cautious businessman, but says his approach has been proven right – Agincare has survived three recessions and is stronger than ever.

Fifteen years ago Derek created a CEO role, with Raina Summerson joining from the Care Quality Commission. Together Derek and Raina have overseen major expansion in the organisation.

Agincare’s experienced senior management make a strong team. With backgrounds in social, health and community care, plus central and local government, as well as financial and commercial organisations they bring to Agincare an excellent balance of care and business.

Agincare now employs more than 3,500 people, owns 20 care and nursing homes and delivers home care and live-in care from local offices across England.

Being privately owned gives Agincare a sure and stable footing. There’s none of the venture capital turmoil experienced by care providers such as Four Seasons and Southern Cross.

Instead, growth has been sustainable and viable, based on an acute personal understanding of and focus on the care sector and sound business sense.

A family connection to Weymouth and Portland

The Luckhursts have a deep connection to Weymouth and Portland, and Castletown in particular. While Derek went to school in Littlemoor and Melcombe Regis, his father, grandfather and two uncles all worked in the naval base on Portland – his father as a deep sea diver.

The Castletown Regeneration

This connection is now stronger than ever. Agincare bought a run-down building in Castletown in 2014, refurbished it and moved its HQ there from Weymouth harbourside.

Derek isn’t one to rest on his laurels. The new Agincare HQ was just the first phase in a major regeneration project in Castletown.

“I’m proud to say that the project has resulted in the Crabbers Wharf development of holiday apartments, a tourist information centre, a shop and the fascinating D-Day Museum next to our HQ. I’m passionate about this museum – it’s a gem of a place, filled with WWII vehicles, details and artefacts, including a tank. It’s great to be involved in breathing life back into Castletown.

 

“There have been more exciting changes on and under the water. We refurbished the pier, which has meant that the My Lady Weymouth-Portland ferry could start running again. And under the waves we’ve created the unusual Underwater Curiosity Park. We’ve sunk around 25 artefacts (including a concrete shark) 12-14 metres underwater, making it a great place to dive.”

A bright and sustainable future for Agincare

The company’s future is bright. The Luckhursts aren’t planning on selling out. The organisation’s succession planning is based on Derek’s three sons spending time learning the business from the ground up, starting as care staff and in the customer service team.

Agincare continues to evolve, as demand for care changes. Care and retirement villages, assisted living schemes and more care homes have been recent acquisitions.

Geographically the company has changed, too. While most of its care homes are south of the M4, Agincare provides home care and live-in care for people living across the country, from Bridport to Medway, Nottingham and Leominster.

As well as investing in the local area, Agincare recognises that its staff are its greatest asset and has created recruitment agency Staff Now and training arm Training Now to oversee staff professional development. The company aims to be the care provider of choice for clients and employees.

The name Agincare continues to be synonymous with high-quality, affordable care. Derek sums it all up:

“People don’t want to be used as a vehicle for an organisation to make huge profits. They want to know that they’re getting good-quality and reliable care at a reasonable price. Delivering high-quality, affordable care to those in need is our passion, and it always will be.”