Concerned Hartlepool Council bosses look to bring elderly care back under their control

Highnam House.
Highnam House.

Council chiefs are exploring ways to bring care for the elderly back under their control amid claims some private firms have failed in Hartlepool.

Hartlepool Borough Council is exploring the possibility of bringing domiciliary care back “in house” following concerns after a series of home closures and a shortage of nursing beds in town.

Carl Richardson.

Carl Richardson.

In the last three months, an official watchdog found three homes need improvement after inspections and another was ruled inadequate, causing 30 residents to be moved out at short notice.

Five homes have been prevented from accepting any new residents until further notice.

Council officers are seeking details on how a small number of local authorities elsewhere in the country are able to have a more hands-on role.

Councillor Carl Richardson, chairman of the council’s Adult Services Committee, said: “We are looking at the possibility of bringing domiciliary care back in house.

We need accountability and in my opinion we haven’t got that with some of the things going on at the moment

Councillor Carl Richardson, chair of Adult Services Committee

“We need accountability and in my opinion we haven’t got that with some of the things going on at the moment.

“Look at Highnam Hall, in 24 hours everybody had to move out the next day. Things like that can’t go on.”

Con Richardson said privatisation of care homes was forced upon local councils by the Government in the mid 90s.

There are currently 18 care homes in Hartlepool of which 13 provide only residential care, two provide just nursing care and three provide both.

Admiral Court Care Home.

Admiral Court Care Home.

But there has been a big reduction in vacancies due to home closures and moratorium restrictions on admissions.

Earlier this year, Admiral Court Nursing Home, in Cleveland Road, ran by Four Winds Care Ltd, closed after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated it inadequate. It led to the loss of 50 nursing beds.

Gardner House residential care home in Brierton Lane, was closed with the loss of 29 beds after operators Community Integrated Care, said it was only half full and the building was too old.

And in October, the CQC took urgent action at Highnam Hall, in Park Avenue, when all residents had to find alternative accommodation after health and safety and fire worries were found.

The Gardner House care home on Brierton Lane in Hartlepool.

The Gardner House care home on Brierton Lane in Hartlepool.

It is owned by Matt Matharu, who was jailed for eight months in February for health and safety breaches at Parkview care home in Seaton Carew when a resident with demential climbed out of a first-floor window and fell to her death.

Between September and November in Hartlepool, residential vacancies varied between 34 and 61 and nursing places between zero and five.

Jill Harrison, Hartlepool council’s assistant director of adult services, said: “Historically, local authorities have been prevented from providing nursing care. Nobody provides it directly, they tend to do it through fairly complex legal agreements, such as care trusts or different partnership models.”

Coun Richardson added: “If other local authorities are doing it we need to be in a position to do it. Also, why can’t we be a trailblazer instead of being the followers? Let’s look at it.”

Member of the public Evelyn Leck said: “The private sector ain’t working. The council has a responsibility for the welfare of these people.

“To do the job properly you have got to take control.”

An update is due to go to the committee in early next year.