Active Care? Another tale of Southern Cross


I wrote a few months ago about the difficulties faced by Southern Cross Healthcare but a quick recap

a) They are the largest private operator of residential and nursing care in the UK

b) Big financial problems

c) Some disparate concerns about quality of care and treatment of staff in homes that they run.

An update this weekend then, on two angles.

Firstly it looks like the financial outlook is slowly improving or at least, is less catastrophic

For the 14 weeks to July 6, the company reported earnings of £24.4m, up from £22.7m in the same period a year earlier. It imposed a 4.7% increase in weekly fees to £530, in most cases paid by local authorities. Occupancy was down slightly from 89.6% to 89.2%

So they just raised their fees – that makes sense.

Well, occupancy rates may well be continuing to fall after Community Care reports that the High Court ordered Active Care (a subsidiary of Southern Cross) to transfer the care of the residents of The Alton Centre in Northamptonshire to the local health and social services care.

I wonder if those figures will count towards ‘occupancy rates’. The article explains

The order was made following an inspection on 6 August that found poor standards at the home. The Commission for Social Care Inspection identified concerns about nutrition and hydration, care of wounds and the management of medication and medical conditions.

So pretty basic stuff for a nursing home.

Active Care aren’t taking this lying down though

Active Care Partnership Ltd made an application to the High Court to try to overturn the urgent cancellation order. But at a hearing yesterday the judge ordered the PCT and council to manage the residents until the company’s appeal to the Care Standards Tribunal, which is due to begin at the start of September.

Northamptonshire Council and Primary Care Trust have sent in a team of nurses and carers to work with and supervise staff in caring for the home’s 28 residents, who have physical disabilities and need nursing care.

I can only deduce that there must have been some fairly substantial care issues at stake for the registration to be removed through court. It is not an easy process. I looked at the last inspection report for Alton Court last October and despite a few issues, it looked to be a home that was making slow and steady improvements following an even worse previous report – but it did say that

Some staff feel that there is a lack of information and guidance from some senior staff and that this affects the quality of their work.

In timely Olympic-speak the baton passes back to the senior management..

The local Northants Evening Telegraph reports on the

story from the 11 August which seems to indicate that initially residents were actually moved out of the home

Residents were taken away in ambulances so their needs could be assessed and decisions made about future care.

Apparently, staff and residents weren’t aware of the nature of the concerns – and in the article above, the daughter of the manager of the home writes in the newspaper comments box that

My mother has been devastated at the recent events and is not permitted to speak to anyone about the current situation and as such cannot explain what has been happening. I hope that she gets the opportunity to defend herself although at this time she still has no update as to what it is that is supposed to have been found wrong. I hope that readers will keep an open mind to what is reported and that the Alton Centre will be saved and that those in management think hard about their conduct in the process of saving their own jobs

It seems that there may well be more to this story that meets the eye. There has to be some serious issues for a closure to be sought. The last inspection report seemed to indicate improvements rather than major concerns.

Yesterday the same Northants Evening Telegraph reports that yesterday that the reasons are on the basis that

the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) found something of “serious and urgent” concern.

Of course there was a response

Representing Active Care, Philip Engelman attacked the closure as “unnecessary” and said there was not enough material before the magistrates to justify an emergency order.

Not wanting to be too cynical it seems difficult to understand that the order could have been made without enough material – but at least the residents don’t have to move and are receiving care – albeit from different people and with different costs being incurred – that previously – while Active Care appeal the decision.

Just last week another residential home (and nothing to do with Southern Healthcare) had its registration removed – again in Northamptonshire – forcing residents to move elsewhere.

On one level it is an acknowledgement that the systems of checking the standards of residential care is working but on the other level – it makes one wonder how much maltreatment and neglect has to take place for these points to be reached.

And if the stop-gap is bringing in public services to support residents and ensure that quality provision is given in a private healthcare setting, it surely makes one wonder where the profits are going.

My concern remains that as the financial climate darkens, will it lead to more struggles and difficulties within private healthcare providers which in turn, leaves more vulnerable people at risk.

11 thoughts on “Active Care? Another tale of Southern Cross

  1. Thanks for the update and analysis. I so appreciate learning more about the pros and cons of how care works in a different system.

  2. Mostly cons I think but I there is a lot of good in there somewhere – just need to focus a bit more on it!

  3. Did you note the remark about the violation of residents’human rights from a branch of the same company which appealed against residents rights?

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  6. Southern Cross have indeed made more money by putting up the fees… nothing wrong with that, but what is not reported is the fact that they have also removed all capital expenditure from the hands of the Managers and regional managers and every piece of equipment which is needed now has to be agreed by the managing director even for basics like pressure releiving mattresses.
    Southern Cross is a poor employer, I am aware of at least 10 Managers, within the midlands area who are actively seeking other jobs, they get no support, they are critisied all the time and they feel completely demoralised.
    Southern Cross needs to wake up and get back to reality of ‘caring’ for those in its care and employ instead of watching the balance sheet all the time – remove some of the senior management whose salaries could be used to buy required equipment – remove people who do not value their employees work but rather will take a dislike to someone and do everything to get rid of them just based on that.
    There are some really good homes, people working in the homes, but senior management are blind to their efforts……. senior management nursing morality seems to have disappeared!!!!!

  7. Thanks for that Sharon. That’s a really useful and I have to say, not wholly unsurprising insight.

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