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?
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.
- Care home operator Southern Cross up for sale (telegraph.co.uk)
- Southern Cross faces collapse over rent bills (guardian.co.uk)
- There’s a chilling lesson in this care home firm’s dire straits | David Brindle (guardian.co.uk)
- Care homes operator close to collapse after rents soar (independent.co.uk)
- Councils set up contingency plans amid fears Southern Cross care homes could close (telegraph.co.uk)