Shares in Southern Cross, the UK’s largest operator in the care homes business, fell to their lowest level in a year and a half last Tuesday. Chief Executive Jamie Buchan said Southern Cross had been hit by a reduction in placements by local authorities. The Financial Times commented, on 11 May 2010:
Southern Cross investors have needed nerves of steel to stomach the roller coaster ride they have endured over the past two years. The group’s New Horizons restructuring is improving quality in its homes, which will help it to increase the fees it charges, as hard-pressed local authorities become increasingly picky about who they fund. In the meantime, the group’s cost structure remains onerous.
Southern Cross certainly has had a rough couple of years but nobody forced it to follow the route of rapid expansion. Personal choice, personal responsibility and greed plunged it into financial crisis in 2008. Bill Colvin, the chief executive left holding the fort, after the resignation of a couple of his colleagues, said then: “We have been caught by the credit market situation and the commercial property market situation.”
By 2009 it was clear that all was not well with the care provided by Southern Cross to many of the vulnerable elderly people living in its care homes, with 29% of its homes rated ‘adequate or poor’ by CSCI (now CQC). Southern Cross was prosecuted five times in seven years after a series of deaths and safety failings. That was no way to run a business, no way to show that you cared.
Southern Cross is not alone in failing to show it cares. Have a look at this promo video for Care UK designed to attract investment – decide for yourself whether Care UK really respects vulnerable elderly people, let alone cares about them. Update: 8 July 2010 0900 hrs: the promo video has just been deleted, ‘removed by the user’. Thank goodness. It was disgusting.
Care UK hit the spotlight again when Panorama revealed the shocking state of domiciliary homecare in a TV programme in April 2009, exposing the misery and neglect provided by some of our so-called ‘care providers’. Care UK has lost contracts left, right and centre in recent years – but nothing changes; they are unstoppable, almost – as Outside Left pointed out in November 2009.
Unstoppable also in their ever-increasing talent of neglecting residents, as the family of Eric Wilder must feel:
Eric Wilder died on Saturday morning at the age of 80 from pneumonia after being rushed to West Middlesex Hospital last Thursday, where it was found he was suffering from blood loss, failing kidneys and anaemia. But his daughters Maureen Wilder and Pamela Forey claim if staff at Charlotte House nursing home in Snowy Fielder Waye had acted quicker their father would still be here today. ……
A spokesman for Care UK, who run the home, said: “We’d like to express our sympathy to the family of Mr Wilder. “We will investigate any complaint thoroughly in line with our complaints policy and feedback to Mr Wilder’s family and the local social services department.”
Care UK even managed to neglect residents after their death – surely the lowest of the low.
A few very recent examples of a few matters that we must bring to the close attention of our newly elected servants:
3 months later: Underhill House care home is still open and being used as a day centre now – provider Wolverhampton City Council
23 April 2010: : Stench of urine in resident’s room at ‘The Briars’ Southampton care home overwhelmed inspectors on an unannounced visit, a court heard
28 April 2010: Land girl pensioner’s care ‘worse than a dog’ – NHS Luton & Dunstable hospital
3 May 2010: Gateshead Council’s care faces criticism
6 May 2010: 85-year old Dementia patient was force-fed by a nurse – provider: Four Seasons Health Care
7 May 2010: BOSSES at a Norfolk care home have admitted they have changed their staffing roster following an investigation into standards by County Hall – provider: Southern Cross
11 May 2010: A Bristol care home worker is on trial for the ill-treatment of a 93-year-old resident – provider: Mimosa Healthcare Ltd
12 May 2010: Ross-on-Wye care home boss in neglect arrest is bailed – provider: Autumn Days Care Ltd.
The horse has always bolted before care providers provide care. Their major talent seems to lie in their ability to find an excuse, a scapegoat, always. They blame the current political climate, the reduction in government and local authority spending and, perversely, even the increasing number of elderly people requiring care. The CQC claims to regulate and inspect; there are National Minimum Standards for care homes; we have Safeguarding/Adult Protection procedures; local authorities are also responsible for so very many aspects of the neglect they commission in the name of care.
The list is endless. The whole system is rotten to the core, with complaints procedures – sorry, I should say ‘formal complaint procedures’ – drawn out to exhaust the most patient of people. We have the CQC, and the NMC; the GMC and the LGO; the OPHSO and …. numerous other combinations of a selection of the 26 letters of the alphabet.
Unison – a million voices for change – highlights the failings of private homecare providers – and before long, Islington Council will have no contracts left for the provision of care. What then? Care UK has a 25-year contract to run three care homes in Islington, but is now planning to concentrate on the self-funders. I wonder why that could be???
But, it doesn’t have to be like that. It does not have to be like that.
Philip Norman tells his story of care, kindness and compassion. His words should serve as a reminder to everyone that with effort and genuine dedication to duty on the part of those responsible for the delivery of safe care, we will be able to count on those same qualities, when we reach the point of needing to place our own relatives into the caring hands of others. Home care, hospital care, or residential care.
Chilling words Philip Norman used as well: “we struck lucky”. It should not be a matter of luck. It should be a matter of course.