Care home ‘closure by stealth’ angers Newcastle MP

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16 Mar 2011

Social services chiefs have been accused by Newcastle MP Paul Farrelly of planning the closure of an award-winning elderly care home by stealth.

Mr Farrelly said Staffordshire County Council had ‘wound down’ Hillport House at Porthill in Newcastle – which cares for elderly people wit dementia -  by refusing any new admissions and leaving the home with only three remaining patients when its closure was announced last month.

Three years ago Mr Farrelly fought successfully to win a reprieve for the home – once recognised as a centre of excellence - when the County Council first attempted to shut it as part of its ill-fated ‘Changing Lives’ policy.

The Council later back-tracked on that initial closure plan after Mr Farrelly warned that there was a lack of alternative provision in the private sector to take up the demand for beds for the elderly and mentally infirm in Newcastle.   

Mr Farrelly said lessons from the first abortive closure attempt had clearly not been learned and that the County had - despite its earlier promises - failed to consult properly with staff at the home and had let-down patients and their families.

He made his comments in a letter to Matthew Ellis, Cabinet Member for Adult Wellbeing who, he said, had failed to provide him with full details of the closure proposals for Hillport.

Mr Farrelly asked Mr Ellis for evidence of what private sector provision for elderly mentally infirm patients exists in Newcastle and an analysis of the number of referrals for home-based care for both permanent and respite care patients for the past three years.

“I am aware that the Council is now looking into the possibility of developing the Homestead, at May Bank, for specialist dementia care. This would suggest that there is still not adequate provision in the private sector. If that is, indeed, the case it makes it all the more alarming that Hillport is being closed prior to alternative provision being made available,” Mr Farrelly said.

Mr Farrelly said that staff at the home had reacted with anger and shock when they learned of the County’s closure decision after reading about it in the local media – and contrary to assurances they had received previously.

“Staff and their union representatives were, I understand, repeatedly assured that there were no plans to close the home and it is equally clear that proper consultation did not happen prior to the latest decision being announced,” Mr Farrelly said.

“I consider the County’s approach at Hillport House to represent a closure ‘by stealth’ and now wish to object to the way service users and staff have been treated,” he added.