Uncertainty for elderly as closure looms for care firm

HUNDREDS of care home residents in south east Northumberland now face renewed uncertainty over their future following this week’s announcement that Southern Cross is to close.

Arrangements are already in hand for one of the company’s 16 homes in the county to be taken over by another firm, but what will become of the others is unknown as yet.

Care chiefs at Northumberland County Council are monitoring the situation but say there is no cause for concern at this stage.

The Darlington-based care home firm’s fate was sealed after it failed to agree a deal with its landlords over rent payments.

It is now working on a plan to transfer the running of 500 of its 750-plus homes nationwide to new operators.

Company chairman Christopher Fisher said: “We are now able to begin clarifying the arrangements for the future operation of our homes.

“The process of change on which we are now embarking involves considerable effort on the part of our management and staff, and their commitment and loyalty is much appreciated.

“We anticipate that the period of uncertainty which we have been experiencing will now draw to a close.”

Southern Cross’s 12 homes in south east Northumberland are Alexandra Park and De Baliol in Newbiggin, Ashington Grange and Moorhouse Farm in Ashington, Astor Court and Astor Lodge View in Cramlington, Avala Park and Riverside House in Morpeth, Bridge View at Choppington, Wansbeck at West Sleekburn and Crofton Court and Durban House in Blyth.

Jane Bowie, associate director for adult services at the council, said “We are continuing to monitor this situation closely, and we are in contact with Southern Cross through the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

“We do not believe there are currently any grounds for concern about the welfare of residents in care homes.

“As we understand it, the issue currently under discussion between Southern Cross and other parties is which organisations will in future run the care homes and how the transfer of ownership will be safely managed.

“All parties involved have given assurances that the homes will continue to operate during and after the transfer, though the organisations taking over the running of homes may subsequently review plans for individual homes and make some changes.

“We only know of a firm outcome for one care home in Northumberland, Durban House in Blyth, which will be operated by Four Seasons Health Care, which already has a number of care homes in the county.

“At this stage, the most important issue is to avoid causing unnecessary anxiety to vulnerable older people in Southern Cross care homes”

Jamie Buchan, Chief Executive of Southern Cross added: “My objective, and that of my team, is to continue to provide excellent care to every resident and to manage the programme of transition professionally.

“All 44,000 staff can take pride from the significant operational turnaround and improvements in care delivery which have been achieved over the past two years.”