Fears for the elderly as care home plan folds

PUBLISHED: 17:31 19 November 2008 | UPDATED: 09:59 12 August 2010

PLANS to replace a council s aging care homes has been sunk by the credit crunch. Bromley councillors were due to meet on Tuesday after it emerged that Shaw Healthcare withdrew from a two-year negotiation to build Bromley s next generation of four care h

PLANS to replace a council's aging care homes has been sunk by the credit crunch.

Bromley councillors were due to meet on Tuesday after it emerged that Shaw Healthcare withdrew from a two-year negotiation to build Bromley's next generation of four care homes.

Yet the meeting agenda revealed that councillors discovered at a private meeting that negotiations had collapsed four months ago. Meanwhile, closure of the council's existing six homes has continued, meaning 200 elderly residents must be moved into private sector homes.

Anne Sutherland House, in Penge, closed in March and the closure of Sheila Stead House, in Chislehurst, is to be consulted on this month. Four more homes in St Pauls Cray, Shortlands, Beckenham, and Petts Wood are also to close, although the future of the sites remains undecided.

The council's adult and community services meeting agenda said Shaw's provider status was dropped because it couldn't meet the value for money criteria "in the current financial climate".

Eileen Chubb, a former Bromley care home worker, revealed: "This is a prime example of what happens when you privatise care services - profit comes first. Bromley needs these homes regardless of the credit crunch. There is not enough provision here for specialist care. People could have to go outside the borough."

Sue Sulis, secretary of Bromley Community Care Protection Group, said: "It was a complete bombshell for us. We thought these plans were all going ahead smoothly. If they are going to sell off homes that are the property of the people of Bromley, they need to have a scheme to replace them with something better."

Bromley council bosses have urged elderly people to live independently by expanding on call support in the borough.

However, Mrs Sulis said: "Extra care housing is not a substitute for social housing, particularly for people with conditions like advanced dementia."

According to a Laing and Buisson report to the council in 2005, Bromley had one of the highest numbers of elderly people in London. It predicted the number of people aged over 85 would rise by 22 per cent by 2012, and 68 per cent by 2028.

Additional pressure on care home places is expected to arise after Broomleigh Housing Association announced its planned closure of its care homes, Branbrook Court in Penge and Denton Court in Petts Wood.

Both fall short of Decent Homes Standards, whilst Bromley council's own care homes struggle to meet them, said Paddy Hehir, development director of Shaw Healthcare.

A spokesperson for Bromley council said: "Whilst it has not been possible to progress a re-provision programme with Shaw HealthCare, the council is confident that it will be able to secure sufficient care home places to meet local needs either from existing providers or through encouraging new developments."

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