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Council To Close Seven Care Homes But Questions Remain Over Abbeywood

Published on: 23 Feb, 2022
Updated on: 25 Feb, 2022

Image – St Mary’s Ash Vale

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Surrey County Council will close seven care homes despite a majority of people in its consultation saying they want them kept open. A decision on an eighth care home, Abbeywood in Ash Vale, appears to have been put off for now.

At its meeting this week (February 22) the authority’s cabinet agreed to close the seven homes and support their elderly residents to move to alternative care homes, saying there would be no shortage of places within Surrey.

Cllr Sinead Mooney

The county council says it would be uneconomic to do all the work required to get the homes – which employed 487 staff at the end of last year – up to standard.

Cllr Sinead Mooney (Con, Staines), cabinet member for Adults and Health, said: “I do know and acknowledge that this will be disappointing to many residents, families and staff, but I would like to reassure everyone that we will do whatever we can to support all those involved. We will communicate with all residents, families and staff.”

The homes marked for closure, by the end of 2024, are:

Barnfield, Horley;

Birchlands, Englefield Green;

Chalkmead, Merstham, Redhill;

Heathside, Woking;

Keswick, Great Bookham;

Meadowside, Staines;

Orchard Court, Lingfield.

The homes, all rated Good by the Care Quality Commission watchdog, can accommodate 433 people but are running well below capacity since the pandemic.

The Dragon had received a statement saying Abbeywood in Ash Vale would also close. But we now understand the council will continue to operate Abbeywood while options are explored regarding development of the site for alternative adult social care services or a joint development with NHS partners. It is accepted that the building may need to close if large scale essential maintenance or development is required, and if no alternative developments are identified.

Carla Morson, Lib Dem county councillor for Ash, said: “I am obviously pleased that Abbeywood is to continue to operate whilst options for its future are explored, however my biggest concern is that Abbeywood may ultimately be closed, especially coming so quickly after having most of our older people’s services moved to Guildford. Abbeywood is central to our community, loved and supported by all. To lose it will be a huge blow, especially for the residents of whom there are centenarians, one of whom I believe is the oldest woman in Surrey. I also have nothing but admiration for the very caring staff working at  Abbeywood, they are amazing and dedicated people.”

‘It feels like that consultation wasn’t a genuine one’

Cllr Will Forster

Liberal Democrats’ group leader Will Forster (Woking South) pointed out in the cabinet meeting that closure of care homes was the least favourite option during the consultation. “So I’m deeply concerned why we aren’t listening to that consultation,” he said.

“The recent budget assumed that the care homes would be closed and it would save just over £10 million over the medium term.

“It feels like that consultation wasn’t a genuine one; it feels like this decision was a fait accompli and I don’t think from a process point of view that is very good.”

The council received 325 responses to its consultation at the end of last year, 45 per cent of which were from residents or family, friends or carers of residents, and 21 per cent from staff.

They were given three options. Most respondents – 76 per cent – were positive about modernising and refurbishing the homes, 63 per cent were positive about maintaining and sustaining them, and just nine per cent were positive about closing them.

Some highlighted how by moving older people they could lose their friendship groups and even increase their risk of dying.

Chris Weatherley-Hastings, area director for adult social care service delivery, said in his report to cabinet:  “The challenges with each of the buildings means that the infrastructure could potentially fail at any time and it is therefore important that we plan for closures rather than having to respond in a crisis and the significant impact that this would have on the wellbeing of
residents, families and staff.”

Clare Curran, ward councillor for Bookham where Keswick care home will close, told the cabinet: “It’s just wholly unrealistic to think that residents could continue to live in Keswick while there is renovation work done there.

“That in itself would be huge disruption and mean that people would have to move out.”

The homes were all built at least 40 years ago and only six per cent of bedrooms are en suite.

Marisa Heath, ward councillor for Englefield Green where Birchlands will close, said the building would never be able to meet the council’s environmental targets, but the council needs to support workers to stay in the community.

“There’s a really lovely lady called Sue Thatcher who lives in Egham,” she said.

“She has dedicated her working life to that home. Thought really needs to be given to how we work with those individuals who have proven skills; we cannot lose them.”

Cllr Tim Oliver

Surrey County Council leader Tim Oliver (Con, Weybridge) told the LDRS: “Post-covid people’s attitudes to care homes has changed; there hasn’t been the same demand to take up those places as there was pre-Covid.

“Our whole focus as a council is in creating opportunities for independent living so the extra care supported living is really what we want people to be able to access.

“We will make sure that those sites are used for appropriate opportunities so building an extra care facility on one of them is a possibility, doing something with the NHS on another.”

Abbeywood Care Home

Cllr Morson of Ash had more to say about Abbeywood.

Cllr Carla Morson at Abbeywood

“I know Abbeywood well and it’s a place where everyone is happy. They try to be as self-sufficient as possible by doing most of their own maintenance and the community also helps out wherever possible. It is next door to the local Health Centre, so have GP support on the doorstep and Frimley Park Hospital is not far away if people need further treatment.

“There is plenty for the residents to do; they often get people stopping or waving to them and the children often take cards or pictures for them to look at.”

One in five of the 11,599 registered care and nursing home beds in Surrey is commissioned by Surrey County Council, as of last November.

The authority took back responsibility for the eight homes from Anchor Hanover Trust three years ago, who still operate nine others on behalf of the council, and Care UK operate a further six.

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Responses to Council To Close Seven Care Homes But Questions Remain Over Abbeywood

  1. George Potter Reply

    February 24, 2022 at 9:05 pm

    Good to see the “Local Democracy Reporter” continuing Reach PLC’s usual implicit pro-Tory bias.

    Note how, in this entire article, the journalist manages to completely avoid mentioning that the county council is run by the Conservatives or that the council leader equipped quoted in this article is a Conservative.

    On the other hand, if it were a good news story about SCC doing something popular, then I suspect the article wouldn’t have been anywhere near as shy about identifying the party in administration.

    George Potter is a Lib Dem borough and county councillor.

    Editor’s response: I do not accept that this article showed a “pro-Tory bias”. The Dragon NEWS is independent and has no party allegiances.

    In its revised form, thanks to our local Ash reporter David Reading, the article features lengthy quotes from the local Lib Dem county councillor Carla Morson. It is normal Dragon policy to add party affiliations and positions, where known, and the omission on this occasion regarding Cllrs Mooney and Oliver is my error (now corrected), made during the edit for which I apologise.

    The Local Democracy Reporting Service, paid for by the BBC, is a valuable asset to the Dragon’s reporting. It increases our news coverage, in particular at county level, in a way that our own editorial resources would not otherwise allow.

  2. Keith Francis Reply

    February 25, 2022 at 3:26 am

    As SCC shies away from modernising these care home and proposes closing them, it is expanding its own network of offices for the county council’s staff to work in at Reigate, Woking, Leatherhead, Walton-on-Thames and now Brooklands. This runs counter to the “work at home” principle it has encouraged with the former County Hall in Kingston awaiting sale.

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