Cost cutting Suffolk County Council (SCC) sold its care homes to CareUK in a deal which meant the closure of Carlton Court and Blyford care homes in Lowestoft, The Dell in Beccles, and the transfer of residents to Britten Court now being built on the Roman Hill School site.
Another CareUK home, Mildenhall Lodge, built as part of the SCC deal, was open for just two months when it was condemned by the Care Quality Commission (QVC) and issued with an enforcement order “to protect the health, safety and welfare of people using this service”.
CQC findings included the wrong diet given to a diabetes sufferer, the inability to find staff, call bells left ringing and “a patient being hospitalised because their food was not correctly prepared”.
As reported in the East Anglian Daily Times, Geoffrey Amis, the partner of a resident, said that “there is never enough staff”, that his partner was “in bed most of the day” and had “been left with soiled clothing. When CareUK took over from Suffolk County Council, very experienced staff left. Since they went to Mildenhall Lodge problems have got worse. It has been very hard for me, I have raised these concerns many times with SCC and Care UK and they never sort it out, or admit there is an issue.”
CareUK now says that standards are “high” and there is no mention of CQC’s damning report on its slick website. At the time of the SCC deal Councillor Colin Noble, responsible for the sell-off, said that the “home care industry is committed to high quality care”. Unsurprisingly SCC is now “reassured”.
In Lowestoft experienced staff have also left the privatised ex-SCC homes, described to Lowestoft Coalition against the Cuts as “where we learned to do things correctly”, and new staff hired on worse conditions.
When CareUK opens Britten Court later this month will it admit to the horrific treatment of residents in Mildenhall and apologise to the people of Suffolk? Will it pay a living wage to staff and ensure high quality training so that the residents can be cared for compassionately and professionally?
CareUK, owned by private equity company Bridgepoint which has former Labour Health Minister Alan Milburn on its Board, has form. After a year of complaints CareUK was stripped of the contract to provide home care to elderly people in Broadland, Norfolk. Its notorious conduct towards care workers and nurses in Doncaster, of cutting pay and downgrading conditions, has provoked a strike which has so far lasted over 70 days.
Bridgepoint pays for its acquisitions with borrowed money. Debt-laden CareUK, which has not paid any corporation tax since 2010, puts profit first. It repays its debts and produces returns on the backs of workers and residents. Care homes should be taken back into public, accountable ownership and our vulnerable people should not be at the mercy of the wide boys in the City.