Since the last hand of cards were played in this most callous of games (click on Southern Cross in the TAG CLOUD to see previous posts on this subject), the players have all been re-assessing their hands before placing their bets and playing their next cards.
In the last round, Southern Cross Management played their only card and bid to reduce rents by 30%. The bankers and landlords reluctantly failed to agree. Then in the next round of betting, SCM had no more chips to play and were forced to throw in their cards.
250 homes will be taken back and managed by their owners (Four Seasons and Bondcare Group being two of them). No doubt they will have to swallow the 30% loss of revenue income to do this.
The residents in the remaining 500 homes will still be left dangling in the air, while their landlords desperately search for new operators. The bankers and vulture capitalists inevitably had to accept lower rents, they just did not want to come to terms with the changed situation and they were and still are prepared to sacrifice residents’ feelings of insecurity while they deliberate on what to do next.
Meanwhile the two other players, CQC and the Government, are still in the game, whether they like it or not.
CQC act like a ghost in the background as if they have no responsibility for the situation, in spite of the fact that firstly they have a duty to assess the financial viability of care home operators and secondly by their own admission they have major concerns about the quality of care being delivered in many Southern Cross homes. It’s high time they stood up and acted in the residents’ interests!
The Government (Department of Health) is sitting with most chips to play but is still playing a blind hand with no idea of the outcome of the game. They started the game many years ago by encouraging the residential care sector to expand rapidly to meet the increasing number of frail older people who needed care. Then, after the market responded in the guise of Southern Cross and many others, the Government didn’t like the overall cost and commenced squeezing the Local Authorities to keep fees down. This process started long before the recent credit crunch but was certainly made much worse by the banks and vulture capitalists seeing the elderly care market as a gravy train.
It is time for the Government to stop playing a blind bet with old people’s lives. They need to declare their hand by getting into the game and taking control of an effectively bankrupt Southern Cross. The issue goes much wider than this, there are many other residential care operators equally perilously positioned, and Local Authorities social care bugets and elderly peoples’ Health Services are no betterplaced in both financial and quality terms.
It’s time for a radical reform of health and care services for older people. It’s not a card game, it’s a life and death issue for the 31,000 residents in Southern Cross homes, for the hundreds of thousands more in residential care and the millions of older people in the UK who worry about their future as their health declines.