In the debate on the proposed closure of Oakleigh at Monday night’s Council Meeting, it was clear that this was not a straight forward matter. There were many different angles to consider and Heather addressed them in her contribution to the debate.
“None of us can be comfortable about closing a care home for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.
And one that has an excellent reputation.
I visited Oakleigh as part of the investigation by the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee. The residents were happy and very well looked after. Care staff were totally committed to their work. I would be comfortable to see a relative of mine live there.
I took therefore an challenging approach to the scrutiny exercise we undertook about Oakleigh.
From the outset, I was shocked at the very high weekly cost to look after each resident. (one thousand and twenty four pounds) £1,024.
This confirmed research I’ve read from from the Dept of Health. Care homes run by councils are much more costly than those run by independent organisations. This is a nationwide phenomenon.
In the wider context, Sutton’s grant was dramatically cut by central government. We have to save over £30 million over the next 3 years. Savings of £10.5 million have to be found from the adult social care budget.
So the financial situation makes keeping an excellent, but costly, Oakleigh less possible.
Current good practice says that people should be helped to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. Many would prefer to do so provided the right level and quality of support is there.
As part of the personalisation agenda, introduced by the last government, everyone eligible for social care has their own budget. This is based on what their needs are assessed to be. They should then be able to make their own choices about how to spend their money. All this has to happen within 18 months.
This means that it could be difficult for people to afford to stay at Oakleigh.
The key question is therefore whether there are other good quality care homes available in the borough?
As part of our investigation, we visited a wide range of care homes and found a wide range of quality.
The star rating system by the Care Quality Commission was not as helpful as we expected. ( now to be discontinued) Oakleigh was given a 3 star rating. Most care homes in the borough were given a 2 star rating. We found that some of these were excellent, some not very good.
We therefore recommended, that the Commissioning Unit and social workers, should work together to improve standards in those homes that had 2 stars.
We needed a Sutton based quality assurance, reflecting our values and standards. We could not rely on the Care Quality Commission. That organisation is in any case changing.
We also recommended that we should challenge the regulations that prevented us from transferring the business of Oakleigh to another, independent provider.
Once again Sutton demonstrated its commitment to consultation. It did challenge the Care Quality Commission successfully, and then went out for another 12 weeks consultation. Few councils would take that trouble.
Unfortunately, no independent organisation was ready to bid for Oakleigh, probably because of the financial obligations when staff are transferred from one organisation to another.
So I have reluctantly concluded that there is no alternative to closing Oakleigh. I do realise what a blow this will be to those still living there, and to the hard working staff. Great efforts will be made to help people find new homes. Like my colleague I would like to say a big thank you to Link and to the dedicated staff at Oakleigh.”