Eighteen months ago, the Southern Cross Nursing and Residential Care Group was in the headlines every day (see “SOUTHERN CROSS” in the TAG CLOUD for earlier blogs).
They were up to their necks in debt and in danger of imminent collapse. After a poker game of bluff and counter bluff with their bankers, the regulator and the Government – all of whom stood by with their hands firmly in their pockets – they did collapse.
But the debts did not go away, they just transferred to the property landlords, who were operators themselves. The three biggest are:-
- Four Seasons with 445 homes; 22,364 residents and £525m debt
- NHP with 236 homes; 12,683 residents and £1.8b debt
- Care UK with 87 homes; 5,540 residents and £480m debt
The financial model still stands on very thin ice, buoyed up only by the growing numbers of frail older people, especially those with dementia. With such pressure on debt repayment and new referrals only coming from “critical and substantial” cases, you have to wonder how long it will be before there is another scandal about quality in residential care. Fees are still being tightly controlled by social services and Central Government. Staff in the main are on minimum wages and homes operate at minimum staffing levels.
Have we just shoved 40,000 vulnerable old people under the carpet ?