Elderly face uncertain future as cash crisis hits homes

THE future of hundreds of vulnerable and elderly people in south east Northumberland is hanging in the balance as a major care home provider struggles to pay its bills.

Southern Cross Healthcare, a firm operating 16 care home across the county, is facing debts of more than £200m and concerns have been raised about what that financial crisis will mean for residents currently living in its homes.

The 16 Southern Cross homes in Northumberland offer residential nursing, dementia nursing and young disabled care.

The company has entered into an arrangement with landlords of its homes to defer an aggregate of 30 per cent of its monthly cash repayments from this month until October while it restructures its finances.

Company chairman Christopher Fisher said: “We believe that all of the key stakeholders in Southern Cross want this restructuring to succeed.

“We are in dialogue with the Department of Health and lenders and landlords, and they continue to support the process.

“Those landlords that do not want to take part in the longer term restructuring will be able to review other options, but it is in everyone’s interests if this is a part of a managed and orderly process.

“The objective will be to emerge with a stable and sustainable business model for the continuity of care to all our 31,000 residents.”

A Northumberland County Council spokesperson said: “We are watching this situation closely, working with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, who have been involved in high-level national discussions.

“The group of local authorities in the region continues to maintain regular contact with Southern Cross Healthcare and is monitoring developments in the negotiations which have been taking place between Southern Cross and its landlords and sources of finance.

“Collectively, the councils buying care from Southern Cross have made it clear through ADASS that we are willing to work with all parties to support the recovery of the business.

“We recognise that one outcome may be some changes in the services provided, though we do not expect that there will be large-scale or sudden closures of care homes.

“We are keeping our contingency plans under review, and we are working closely with Southern Cross and other care providers to support provision of sustainable care and to make sure that any changes which affect vulnerable older people are managed in a way that minimises anxiety and any risks to residents’ health and welfare.”

Southern Cross Healthcare Homes in Northumberland include:

- Alexandra Park, Newbiggen-by-the-Sea

- Ashington Grange, Ashington

- Astor Court, Cramlington

- Astor Lodge View, Cramlington

- Avala Park, Morpeth

- Bridge View, Choppington

- Crofton Court, Blyth

- De Balliol, Newbiggen-by-the-Sea

- Durban House, Blyth

- Moorhouse Farm, Ashington

- Ponteland Manor, Ponteland

- Red Brick House, Prudhoe

- Riverside House, Morpeth

- Sunningdale House, Hexham

- Sunningdale Lodge, Hexham

- Wansbeck, West Sleekburn