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Walnut Close Care Home in Thatcham could close and residents moved elsewhere

West Berkshire Council consulting on options

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886633

Walnut Close Care Home in Thatcham could close and residents moved elsewhere

A THATCHAM care home could close and its residents moved elsewhere as West Berkshire Council reassesses how it provides care. 

Walnut Close, off the A4 and Brownsfield Road, can accommodate 35 residents, but currently houses 18 and is running at a loss. 

Ten rooms are vacant and seven are closed because of hazardous flooring.

None of the rooms have their own en-suite facilities, which has added complexity during the coronavirus pandemic. 

West Berkshire Council runs the home and said it requires “significant, and potentially prohibitively costly” work to ensure that it is safe and habitable.

The council said that keeping the home open and safe was not a realistic option, due to the need for the significant works.

The council is consulting on closing Walnut Close in January 2021, and relocating residents and staff to its three other care homes, predominately Birchwood Care Home.

The council said that the closure would be an interim measure and run alongside a broader strategy of its care home provision, as the impacts of Covid-19 had “necessitated more urgent action”.

Should the council close the home, the budget earmarked for essential maintenance works would be invested in  other care homes, namely Birchwood.

It added that the use or sale of the land at Walnut Close would be considered later, separately to a decision to close the home, and any subsequent proceeds of sale could be reinvested into its care home provision. 

A substantial refurbishment of the existing building or a complete rebuild, would be required, both of which would mean long-term upheaval for residents and staff.

A Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection from 2019 rated the home as ‘requires improvement’ linked to the state of the building. 

Areas of the home were described as being in a “poor condition” and in a “state of disrepair” and form a substantial barrier to achieving a higher rating. 

Surveyors have identified a substantial list of works, including new roofing and floors.

A structural survey is also required which could reveal more issues, expected to come at a significant cost. 

The council added that Walnut Close did not offer the level of facilities that would be found in a modern care home and that the Covid-19 pandemic had “presented staff with some difficulties” due the lack of these facilities.

The council said that a lack of en-suite facilities had proved difficult during the pandemic and that having to share bathroom facilities between multiple residents had increased the cleaning workload of staff.

Commodes were also used within the bedrooms, which had negatively impacted residents.

Redundancies are not anticipated as the council said it hoped that staff could be redeployed to other homes. 

Shadow portfolio holder for adult social care Alan Macro (Lib Dem, Theale) said he had some concerns about the proposal.

He said: “They are planning to move the existing residents out to other care homes. That’s very stressful for the residents. 

“People will have made friendships within the home. I have asked, if possible, that when they get moved to others for those relationships to be respected.

“They need to spend a lot of money on the building to bring it up to standard and to get the CQC rating up.  

“There is an officer looking at what they need to do, whether they want to provide their own care homes or commission from the private sector.

“There are a lot of vacancies unfortunately because of the effect of the [corona] virus.”

Mr Macro said there were a high number of excess deaths in care homes caused by Covid-19 and that families were reluctant to move loved ones into care homes because of the situation.

He added that the proposal and consultation seemed to have been made in a hurry.  

The consultation runs until October 4 and feedback will be submitted in a report to the council’s executive to make a decision on Thursday, November 19. It can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/walnutclosecarehome 

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