Start me up: Dr Jamie Wilson, founder of HomeTouch

Dr Jamie Wilson has created HomeTouch an online platform that puts home care into the hands of the people who care the most, families. As an ex-NHS doctor, Jamie knows the pressures of families to find quality, affordable carers for their loved ones, so he created HomeTouch. 

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What exactly is your business and how does it help people?

HomeTouch is an online platform that helps families find high quality, affordable care. The home care industry has been slow to adopt technology with limited imagination in terms of improving the experience for people receiving care and their families. Normally, you will receive no guarantees about who will be providing the care and you probably won’t meet your carer before they start.

HomeTouch allows you to select your own carer by viewing their video profile, reading customer reviews, assessing the carer’s experience and skills, and interviewing them face to face beforehand. We then provide the suite of tools to monitor and track the performance of the carer. Technology also allows us to remove traditional agency costs and make quality care more affordable in light of spiralling costs in the elderly care sector.
We are creating a community of carers committed to excellence in the service that they provide. All HomeTouch carers determine their own rates of pay and workload and we are committed to ensuring carers earn above the London living wage. Contracts are a minimum of one hour and we are reducing carer travel times by only recommending carers within 5 miles of a client’s postcode. We believe technology can help liberate the hundreds of thousands of carers working across the UK and enable better care for all families.

What was your inspiration and motivation to get started in business?

As a dementia physician and ex-NHS Doctor, I experienced first-hand the chronic shortage of home carers and the strain placed on families and the health service due to ever-growing demand, funding constraints and an underpaid and demoralised workforce.

One of the most common problems families face is finding quality, affordable care as well as being able to maintain continuity, with some of patients having over 30 different carers a year. It seems paradoxical that in an industry so clearly grounded in the basic human activities of compassion and care, that the people carrying out the real work are not better showcased as ambassadors.

I decided that a new model of care was needed to address the home care crisis and in 2015, HomeTouch was born.

How did your friends and family react to you starting a business?

They were relieved to see me do something I was passionate about and thankful that they could stop hearing me moan about the NHS and state of home care.

However, there were obvious concerns as starting your own business can be one of the biggest tests mentally with long hours and increased pressure and stress. As a trained psychiatrist, I have endeavoured to listen to my own advice and always make time to relax and switch off with my friends and family, this is essential to refocus the mind.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?

As we operate in a sensitive sector that has lost public trust, people are understandably cautious in their decision-making. Trust is paramount so we have focused on building transparency and great customer service. We have a rigorous three stage interview process for carers all of whom must have enhanced DBS background checks and only accept 5-7% of applicants.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?

Empowering colleagues and sharing ideas is essential, you can’t do it alone and have to gradually relinquish control. It’s unhealthy to try and juggle everything. Staff are motivated by a sense of collaboration, so instilling autonomy is critical, particularly as you transition to a larger team.

I would also say that it’s important to draw a red line and know what constitutes too much risk and when to walk away – I came pretty close to the edge in the early days, but always made sure I had some additional income and never risked my property.

How do you expect your business to develop in the future?

We started in January 2015 and have grown 30%-40% each month, delivering thousands of hours of care across Greater London each week. We’ve recently expanded to Hertfordshire and Sussex and the aim to raise the standard of home-based care across the UK by 2017.

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