Tunstall reaping rewards of NHS shake-up

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International expansion and a change of direction for the company are driving up revenue and profit at Tunstall Healthcare.

The group, which designs and manufactures technology to enable elderly people to live independently for longer, reported a 27 per cent rise in turnover for the year ending September 30, 2012, up from £143.3m to £182.1m.

Managing Director Simon Arnold

Managing Director Simon Arnold

The figure was driven by a number of international acquisitions, although it still managed to grow by £3m once those costs were stripped out. The UK business saw revenues grow 9.7 per cent to £97.9m.

Tunstall, which has over 3.5m users, is based in Whitley Bridge, near Doncaster.

Its telehealth equipment monitors vital signs such as blood pressure and weight to manage long-term health issues such as diabetes, and links to local health services to ensure the person is getting the support he or she needs.

Its telecare products include automatic detection alarms, which call for help in the event of a fall, a fire or flood.

Until two years ago, the company only produced the equipment but under the leadership of managing director Simon Arnold, who joined the group in 2011, Tunstall is now developing support services as well as technology.

He said: “We want to make sure the people we support through local authorities and the health service are able to feel confident that they are still connected to their local community.”

Mr Arnold said changes to the way the NHS operates presented a number of opportunities for Tunstall.

“There is a significant opportunity to change the way care is provided to people and to help them remain independent at home for longer,” he said. “We are seeing huge interest in that.”

The company said it works with almost every council in the UK and had contracts with 95 PCTs, which have now been transferred to the newly-formed clinical commissioning groups.

However, earlier this year, the future of a £3m initiative to bring hi-tech telehealth to thousands of sick patients in North Yorkshire was thrown into jeopardy less than three years after its launch after GPs were reluctant to take up Tunstall’s technology. Its future was finally secured for another year after the contract was renewed in March.

Mr Arnold said: “The telecare sector is reasonably well understood but the telehealth sector, and how you integrate technology into care for individuals at home, is a question that still needs to be fully resolved.

“The one group we never have a problem with is the patients, who love the service they get to make their lives a bit easier.”

One of the changes Tunstall recently made was to lease rather than sell its equipment, which Mr Arnold said helped clients spread the cost and helped stabilise its revenues.

The company, which employs 2,700 people, operates in over 50 countries worldwide but the equipment is designed and manufactured at the company’s headquarters. In the last financial year, it spent £6.8m in research and development.

Recent acquisitions have seen Tunstall expand further into the US, Scandinavia and Spain.

Group chief financial officer Richard Webster said: “We see gradual economic growth in the eurozone and North America. From 2017, North American baby boomers will start to retire and that is the population that is most suited to our range.

“It will be a huge challenge to deal with that.”

Tunstall’s group operating profit increased by 17 per cent to £43.5m in the year ending September 30, 2012.

The company is owned by private equity investors Charterhouse and Bridgepoint. Management own 19 per cent.

On the global acquisition trail

Tunstall Healthcare has made a number of international acquisitions in the last two years.

In 2011, it acquired the American Medical Alert Corporation, based in New York, which is a major provider of remote health monitoring services.

In 2012, it bought STT Condigi, a Swedish provider of technology and services to the care home sector.

In January 2013, Tunstall acquired the number one private sector telecare service provider in Spain, Televida.

Managing director Simon Arnold said: “In the last two years we have made some big acquisitions.”