Care Home Crises


Lakeview Care Home. One of two modern care hom...

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I have been following with interest the fortunes, or rather, misfortunes of Southern Cross.

Southern Cross is the largest care home provider in the UK.  It owns 750 residential and nursing homes throughout the country and cares for 31,000 residents.

I have never placed anyone in a Southern Cross Home – it might be to do with geographical spread of their care homes but nonetheless I’ve been following their fortunes for a while, since I first wrote about them teetering on the proverbial financial brink in 2008.

Southern Cross is owned by a US private equity company and some of the background is explained in the Guardian. It pumped out profit while speculating on property prices and paying staff the minimum wage in order to garner a sufficient profit to make the shareholders/investors happy.

Wouldn’t Lansley be proud? The efficient private sector at its’ finest – no?

No.

The crash came. Property plummeted. Southern Cross have been involved in a number of cases of neglect and mistreatment and mud sticks. Indeed, I’ve written about a few of the cases here, here and here

Even with the CQC taking their eye off the ball as frequently as they do, culpable deaths are hard to ignore.

So now Southern Cross have an occupancy rate which has fallen from 91% to 82% and, I’d suspect falling further.

I have had two families with whom I am currently working regarding choosing placements raise the sceptre of Southern Cross directly with me this week –

‘We don’t want mum/dad to go to a Southern Cross home because we don’t want her/him to have to move again when it closes down’  – and this is in an area where there are no Southern Cross homes so realistically it would never have been raised as an option.

Actually, this is in an area where there are no easily available residential or nursing home places.

You see, our council, having sold off almost all of its stock of placements, has been reliant on the private sector to provide for the needs of people in the area who need residential and nursing placements and land/rent costs mean that it’s hardly efficient for private enterprises to buy up land or care homes in central London. No, it’s the cheap land in the cheaper suburbs that they are after.

So where does that lead us – as the old care homes have been turned into highly profitable flats for wealthy young city dwellers who don’t fancy a commute?

It leaves us placing people who not only were born and grew up in the inner city being placed further and further away from the only homes they’ve ever known – it leaves elderly spouses and carers having longer and longer distances to travel, sometimes with health difficulties themselves and very very rarely with cars (cars are really not as common in inner city London as they might be elsewhere – I’m a case in point having never acquired a driving licence – let alone a car – myself!).

4 miles might seem close in Cornwall, but in the inner city without a car, it can be a long long way.

This is one of the effect of the purchaser/provider splits which came about after the introduction of the NHS and Community Care Act 1990.

When Southern Cross goes under what will happen to the residents and staff in the homes? Well, considering there is nowhere for them to move to, it’s likely that local authorities will have to step in and pick up the ‘tab’ after all, the placements are desperately needed. The public sector will again ‘bail out’ the profit seekers and venture capitalists from the US who gambled on property without thought of the residents on whom they were dependent. Private sector has all the answers, right? It will be costing local authorities a whole lot more.

Be mindful of my Cassandra-like words, if you don’t want to see exactly the same thing happening but instead of care homes for the elderly, we’re discussing children’s hospitals  – then, maybe, more people will care.

7 thoughts on “Care Home Crises

  1. Having been involved, as a social worker / care manager, in a care home closure, I can only hope Southern Cross can be sold as a going concern (particularly as there are three Southern Cross homes in areas I work across).

    Home closures cause disruption to residents’ lives and see them faced with restricted choices. It’s well known that frail elderly people are likelier to die in the months after a major transition. The media and various lawyers who specialise in class actions tend to focus on the closure (in fact often the remodelling or reorientation) of local government run care centres but this is mainly because democratic accountability gives a more interesting story to the media and because of the specific statutory duties of local authorities make them an easier target for litigation. Private care homes close all the time, often at extremely short notice with no period of consultation or elaborate scheme for gradual resettlement without any comment in the media. I once asked a regional journalist about the lack of coverage for a private sector home facing closure and he told me it was ‘not news’. Again, different expectations seem to apply for the public and private sectors.

    Many Southern Cross homes are nursing homes so, as far as I understand the 1948 National Assistance Act, there could be a legal impediment in local authorities taking a hand in their management.

    Sadly, if Southern Cross can be sold, it’s unlikely to be to an organisation with distinctively different views about the prices vs. people calculus.

  2. Excellent blog, at last recognition of older peoples needs. The big issue we have is the very diverse district I work in, the maximum cost tge LA pay comes no where near what some homes accept, therefore if people can’t afford the top up they have to move from where they know to inner city approx 12-15 miles away!

  3. Excellent and disturbing post, cb. I was vaguely aware of the Southern Cross situtation, but this puts it very clearly and how it came about. I’m afraid that if the Health and Social Care bill gets going we can indeed look forward(if that is the term)to more of this.

    PS Em..Did you mean ‘spectre’ for ‘sceptre’? Sorry, mum was a teacher, I can’t help it..

  4. Thanks for the comments
    Guilsfield – I wasn’t aware about the predominance of nursing (as opposed to residential) homes in their portfolio. I agree about the worries re: about who would potentially take over.
    Marie – yes, I think the problem is national which makes it so much more frustrating that nothing has been done centrally and that the govt think the answer is to privatise more and more.
    Clive – thanks for the link – I’ll check it out.
    Julie- thanks – and yes, i meant spectre.. sometimes my fingers type in advance of my brain – I’ll leave the mistake in though so the comment makes sense!

  5. Pingback: CQC and Southern Cross – a retrospective « Fighting Monsters

  6. It is clear that the rapid expansion of Southern Cross by Blackstone left it increasingly vulnerable and has ultimatley left more than 30,000 vulnerable elderly people at risk. This saga has certainly shed light on the extraordinary challenge that this country faces in funding an ageing population. It is incredibly sad that good quality care, for those who need it, has not been provided and we should be striving to ensure that a place that these people now call home, continues to exist. Considering that one in five Britons alive today may well live to 100, we surely need to tackle this care crisis.

    http://jewishcarepearlsblog.com/2011/06/08/the-story-of-southern-cross/

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