Anger as Sheffield care home announces sudden closure

Residents, families and staff at Hartwell Residential Care Home in Ecclesfield have been stunned by the shock announcement that the home is to close.

The company that runs the home, Four Seasons Health Care (FSHC), have said the home must close as they “can no longer sustain” its losses. 

Residents, staff and families have been upset by the swift nature of the closure announced. The home currently houses 26 elderly people who will now need to move.

Lewis Coward, a former senior care worker whose late mother was resident at the home until 2014, said: “What is more upsetting is the timescale that Four Seasons have introduced. This has come very very quickly and they are talking about closing the care home in a matter of weeks.

“Hartwell is sitting in someone’s spreadsheet and the cell has just popped up.”

Mr Coward said the short timescale could affect vulnerable residents.

“I’ve seen what change can do to people, especially the elderly,” he said.

“It has an impact on the residents themselves and their families.”

In a statement, FSHC said: “We do not want to close any home, but Hartwell has been operating at a substantial loss as the fees it is receiving do not cover its operating costs.

“For a long while we effectively have been paying in order to continue to provide care for each resident and we can no longer sustain this. The closure plan has not been arrived at easily, but we see no way to make the home viable.”

FSHC also said they would be proceeding in consultation with Sheffield City Council, and staff and residents at the home, and that all of the home’s 26 current residents would be moved to new accommodation before the home closes for good.

Councillor Cate McDonald, cabinet member for Health and Social Care at Sheffield City Council, said: “I was concerned to learn about Hartwell’s closure, and I share in the upset it will undoubtedly cause residents and their carers. I would like to reassure them that, although this is distressing and upsetting, there are places available in residential and nursing homes across the city and we are confident new homes will be found.

“As a council, we will work closely with the residents, their families and carers to minimise the upset they are feeling about this news. The Council will support the 28 people currently at Hartwell as they seek new accommodation, including of course the 11 residents that it funds.”

Council representatives will attend a residents’ meeting at Hartwell on Wednesday and reassure those affected by the closure.

Last week Sheffield City Council estimated that there were more than 250 available places in nursing and residential care across the city.

Only a week ago FSHC closed another home in the area.  They gave residents at  Amethyst House Care Home in the Rossington area of Doncaster just 30 days to find new accommodation.

FSHC, who are owned by the private equity firm Terra Firma are struggling with debt. In 2015 they had a recorded debt of £513 million and they closed or sold 51 of their care homes during 2016.

In December, Ben Taberner,  FSHC’s Financial Director, told the Financial Times the closures were aimed at giving the company a “smaller portfolio of higher performing homes”.

FSHC also told JUS News: “Obviously we will not be showing people around the home with a view to admissions.”

Hartwell Care Home is itself recording an operating loss of £4 million and has recorded losses of £7.8 million since 2015.

Concerned members of the public have sent letters protesting the nature of Hartwell Care Home’s closure to the government, FSHC and to the Sheffield Star.

This comes less than a week after Adult Social Care in Sheffield was branded as the worst in South Yorkshire.

Director of Adult Services Phil Holmes delivered a report to Sheffield City Council’s Healthier Communities and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee that compared Sheffield unfavourably with its neighbours in the county.

On the same day the council’s cabinet approved a 3.2% increase in care home fees in the area.

The Council anticipate a 10% rise in demand for care home places between 2012 and 2020.

FSHC own ten further care homes in the South Yorkshire area.