Suffolk: Care homes to be transferred to private operator

COUNTY council residential homes are to be transferred to a private operator after the move was unanimously backed by the authority’s cabinet.

The move came despite concerns raised by Labour group leader Sandy Martin that a private company could get into financial difficulties if it had too much debt to service.

During a two-hour debate on the proposals at the cabinet meeting in Bury St Edmunds, Mr Martin said there had been problems with care providers, especially Southern Cross which had been forced to relinquish its homes across the country after getting into financial difficulties.

He said: “There is a very good reason why vital public services should be delivered by an accountable public body, that is because the needs which they address are too important to be left to the whims of the capital markets.”

However cabinet member for adult care Colin Noble said there had been a great deal of care taken to check the financial viability of the company.

He said: “We worked with (management consultants) KPMG in selecting the our preferred bidder and they did all kinds of tests which Care UK passed with no problems.

“We cannot pretend to be experts in the finances of companies like Care UK, that’s why we worked with KPMG who are.

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“They suggested we reject some of the other companies because of their financial arrangements, but they were not concerned about Care UK.”

The decision by the cabinet means that the county’s 16 homes will be transferred to Care UK next month.

By the middle of 2016 all will have been redeveloped or demolished. Care UK will build 10 larger homes – the current 526 rooms in 16 homes will be replaced by 680 rooms in 10 homes.

Mr Noble said care was being taken to ensure residents were moved as easily as possible and staff would be transferred to Care UK under the deal.

He said: “I fully appreciate that change is unsettling for our residents and we will work hard with them and their relatives to ensure they continue to have their care needs fully met.”

Care UK’s director of nursing Frances Gibson welcomed the decision and said she was looking forward to working with the residents and their families.

She said: “When Care UK takes over the day to day operation of the Council’s care homes little will change initially, so residents can be reassured that they will continue to see the same much loved faces.

“Once we’ve got to know everybody, we’ll start to share more information about what our new homes are like.

“New homes will also have a team of highly trained nurses and modern facilities for people who need higher levels of care. This should be good news for residents in the future as, at the moment, they may have to move out of a much loved home into one that provides nursing and dementia care.”