The Player: Dr Chai Patel, Founder of Canterbury Healthcare: We want to create a brand people can trust

Click to follow
The Independent Online
PERSONAL DETAILS: Aged 44. Lives in Surrey. Drives Jaguar XK8. Hobbies include drawing, films and golf. Pay undisclosed.

CHALLENGE: To build a large organisation that behaves like a small one, says Dr Patel. He sees having a large organisation as important for financial strength, the ability to shape policy and recruit the best people. However, he wants the flexibility and entrepreneurial qualities of a small business. He believes the healthcare industry will have to innovate, so that service standards are as high as those in other sectors. Meeting expectations is one of the challenges that excites me, he says.

CORPORATE BACKGROUND: Dr Patel qualified as a doctor in 1979. He was a member of the Royal College of Physicians and spent five years in the NHS. Before leaving medicine in 1985, he was MRC Research Fellow at Pembroke College, Oxford.

He then spent four years as an investment banker before founding Court Cavendish in 1988. It floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1993. In 1996 he merged Court Cavendish with Takare to create CareFirst, the UK's largest continuing care company. He was chief executive of CareFirst until August 1997.

Last month he formed a new vehicle, Canterbury Healthcare, to take Westminster Health Care private. His offer valued the homes group, which is one of the UK's largest private-sector healthcare providers to the elderly, at pounds 214m.

He is a member of various policy groups including those of Age Concern, the Department of Health,Help the Aged and the newly formed NHS modernisation group.

STRATEGY: Westminster Health Care has four divisions: long-term care, specialist health services, retirement housing management and diagnostic medicine. Dr Patel says that if more is spent on rehabilitation and transitional care the need for some people to go into long-term care will be reduced. We want to build a rehabilitation business, he says.

The medium-term goal is to become the market leader in retirement healthcare services in Europe. He says there is no recognised European healthcare services brand, despite the pounds 50bn size of the combined UK, French and German markets. He believes there is the potential to create a brand people can trust.

MANAGEMENT STYLE: My work is about motivating people, he says. Service diminishes if you are not focused on people. Treat people the way you would like to be treated and try to do whatever you do to the best of your ability.

MOST ADMIRES IN BUSINESS: The gurus, Charles Handy and Peter Drucker. Archie Norman, Asda chairman, for transforming an also-ran into a mainstream supermarket group. Jack Welch of GE Capital for showing how a large organisation can be run like a small one.

CITY VERDICT: Commenting on the agreed offer, one analyst said: "It's a generous price." Dr Patel is buying Westminster at a low point but it has good long-term prospects. The short term may remain difficult with staff costs rising for nursing and unskilled staff. Westminster's 21 per cent drop in underlying first-half profits to pounds 6.6m led analysts to downgrade their annual profit forecasts.

Comments