Priory expects healthy return from NHS bill

THE PRIORY care homes operator best known for its celebrity clientele yesterday said it expects to benefit in the long term from the government’s controversial reforms of the NHS.

Priory Group, bought by private equity firm Advent International for £925m last year, also said it was considering acquisitions as well as expanding existing sites after posting almost flat like-for-like sales for 2011.

The firm, famous for providing refuge to pop stars like Pete Doherty and Robbie Williams, said adjusted revenue was £455.4m compared to £456.1m in 2010, but earnings rose 5.56 per cent to £134.9m towards the top of expectations.

Philip Scott, chief executive, said Priory should be a winner from the NHS reforms – passed by Parliament last week ­– but not immediately.

“Priory remains well positioned to benefit in the longer term from the commissioning reforms...

“However, in light of the short term uncertainty around the implementation of these reforms, the group anticipates a degree of ongoing disruption in the short term and, as a result, conditions in the secure healthcare division are likely to remain challenging.”

Priory’s secure mental health services arm, which benefits from higher margins, was hit in the third quarter by the recall of a greater number of patients from its hospitals to NHS care but this slowed in the final three months and at the start of this year.

Although best-known for its rehab work, this is only a small part of the business which also provides mental health treatments, care for children with autism disorders and nursing homes for elderly people suffering from dementia.

Priory’s largest recent acquisition was a £325m deal for Craegmoor Group in April last year.