Controversial decision, B&NES votes to shut down Keynsham care home just four years after taking it on
By John Wimperis - Local Democracy Reporter
9th Feb 2024 | Local News
Councillors have voted to close down a care home just four years after taking it over, amid accusations of a "managed decline."
Bath and North East Somerset Council's cabinet voted unanimously to close down Charlton House care home in Keynsham, at their meeting on February 8. Now the council will launch a feasibility study into whether the building can be turned into a residential special school.
Council cabinet member for adult services Alison Born told the meeting there had been a "lack of investment" in Charlton House and two other care homes before the council took them back in house in 2020. She said the council had invested in them, but this had led costs to increase "considerably" and it was now more expensive than private sector care.
She added that there was a "buoyant" care home market in the area, while there was a lack of special education and care facilities. She said: "One of the advantages of running our own in-house services is that it gives us the opportunity to use these facilities to fill gaps in the local market."
But the council has been accused of overseeing a "managed decline" of Charlton House. In 2022 — two years after the council took it over — a damning Care Quality Commission report rated the home "inadequate."
It found that one person had been left sitting in urine overnight, another had an "unexplained bruise" to their chest, and staff did not call for medical assistance for seven hours after one person had suffered a stroke.
The council closed a floor of the care home after the report, and there are now just 10 people living in the 30-bed care home. Charlton House has since improved and been upgraded to "requires improvement."
At a council scrutiny panel looking at the proposals earlier in the week (February 5), councillor Leslie Mansell said: "What I am understanding from staff is there seems to have been managed decline with the closure of the beds, and what's happened is that, because staff have become demoralised, that many have left and obviously that makes things more difficult for the staff remaining."
A statement from staff at the care home — released shortly before the cabinet meeting through trade union Unison — slammed the council's running of the care home.
The statement said: "The staff at Charlton House are devastated by the prospect of losing their jobs and of Charlton House closing.
"The staff who have been there for many years describe how it was previously a "beautiful residential home", which was a source of pride for the staff, the community and [Bath and North East Somerset.]
"In recent years, the resources and management of the residential home have been consistently declining. This has led to poorer quality care for residents, poor staff morale, and instability in the home. Managers have not been visible in the home, and residents, relatives and staff alike are distressed by this."
Unison said they had been told by the human resources department that three members of nursing staff would face redundancy, but Bath and North East Somerset Council has insisted that this is not the case and new roles will be found at partner organisations.
The staff statement warned: "The care workers who are expecting to be redeployed have been told they may have less hours, or be in different places, when many of us don't drive. Unison representatives from the affected staff group have requested to meet with adult social care management. This request has been refused."
Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Ms Born said: "The needs of the current residents at Charlton House will be assessed individually and we will work closely with each resident and their families or representatives to determine suitable alternative placements and to ensure a smooth and safe transition.
"Staff affected by this change will be offered suitable alternative roles within the council. Where there are specialist roles, like nurses, we will work with partners to identify suitable roles.
"I want to underline that suitable new places will be found nearby for the small number of residents for whom we will not be in a position to offer care and there will be no change to the costs paid by any resident who is funding their own care."
A public consultation on closing the care home was held last year.
Of the 45 people who responded to the consultation last year, 36% were in support of closing down Charlton House and 40% were opposed, with the remainder saying they did not know or have an opinion.
The cabinet also approved plans to turn Cleeve Court residential home into a "centre of excellence" for dementia care without nursing, and to enhance the offer at Combe Lea residential home to offer spaces to younger people with complex needs as well as older people.