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08 February 2004
Scotland on Sunday
ScotNursing looks to further expansion


SCOTNURSING is continuing its expansion into England as shortages of nurses and carers help fuel strong growth at the agency.

The business, founded by nurse Ann Rushforth with a £1,000 overdraft 17 years ago, will see turnover rise to more than £13m in the current financial year - an increase of more than 30% in the past two years.

ScotNursing, which now has more than 17,000 nurses and carers on its database, is opening two new branches south of the Border following the success of its first English base in Leicester.

It is also expanding into new areas of Scotland including Dundee and Perth, taking its total network to 21 branches.

According to its newly filed figures, turnover for the past financial year rose by 12% to £11.3m and the firm posted a pre-tax profit of £39,672 against a loss of £82,999 the previous year when it invested heavily in its call centre operations.

Of the agency staff on its books, around 6,000 are classed as ‘active’, with between 800 and 1,500 working through ScotNursing every week.

Rushforth said although she had received approaches from potential buyers of the business, a sale was not being sought and she was concentrating on expanding and investing in the business.

Although the company acquired a home care service in Dumfries last year, it is not targeting specific acquisitions.

"If we come across something which fits in with what we do and our standards we may be interested, but we are looking at organic growth," Rushforth said.

Private equity firm Aberdeen Murray Johnstone has invested £1.2m in exchange for a minority stake in the business to help fund the expansion programme. Rushforth launched ScotNursing in 1987 from her home in Dumbarton having started her own nursing career at Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria.

She initially offered care herself and turnover in the first year was £25,000, but business rapidly grew as the NHS became more reliant on agency nurses.

Although Rushforth said in the short-term demand for agency nurses was likely to level out as the NHS moves to offer staff nurses more flexible employment, the long-term prospects for the market were good.

"If you look at the trends for nurses coming up for retirement compared to the numbers of new nurses being recruited and the increasing number of people being cared for in their own homes, it is a long-term growth market," she said.

As well as providing emergency nursing cover, the company is also securing an increasing number of long-term contracts with a number of hospitals and local authorities.

Rushforth said the continued growth of the company was down to "providing a very professional, quality service and paying good rates without cashing in on nursing shortages".

The company now operates a number of divisions providing nursing, home care, nannies and occupational health services. It also operates its own college in Dumbarton for the training of agency staff. 

PERRY GOURLEY



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