Essex: No plans to close care homes, says Southern Cross

A HEALTHCARE company has denied plans to close care homes for vulnerable people in Essex despite running into financial difficulties.

Troubled care home group Southern Cross – which runs 24 homes in the county – announced last week that it was in talks with the Government over “unsustainable” rents and a loss of income from a reduction in local authority spending.

Richard Howitt, Euro MP for the East of England, said he was concerned that vulnerable people in Essex faced being made homeless because of the group’s financial situation.

“Providing high-quality care for the elderly, and especially those with dementia, is a growing problem and now is not the time for care homes to face closure,” he said.

“We are not talking about numbers on a balance sheet, but about mums, dads and grandparents whose long-term care should be a priority. It would be a terrible upheaval for residents to be forced to move from the place they call home.”

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Southern Cross is Britain’s largest care home group and manages a number of homes in Essex including Great Horkesley Manor and The Old Rectory in Colchester, Larchwood in Braintree, Middleton Manor in Maldon and Springbank in Clacton-on-Sea.

Mark Cash, regional director of Southern Cross, said: “There are no closures planned as a result of the announcement on March 14, but we continually review the performance of our homes.

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“Whilst we cannot guarantee success in the work being done to address challenges facing our business, we are working hard to ensure our network of homes matches the needs of our business.”

A spokesman for Essex County Council, which uses Southern Cross homes, said: “The council is committed to ensuring the safety of all vulnerable people in Essex, and is continuing to work closely with Southern Cross to ensure the continuity of services.”

Mr Howitt blamed the Government’s cuts to local authority budgets for putting pressure on care homes like Southern Cross.

The MEP, who campaigned for a European initiative on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, said the number of people suffering from dementia in Europe is estimated to nearly double every 20 years and that studies show Europe will need 750,000 new care places by 2020.

In a bid to buy itself some breathing space Southern Cross has told landlords it will not pay its latest quarterly rent bill as planned, instead switching to monthly installments.

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