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Residents at Thatcham's Walnut Close care home moved



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RESIDENTS from a Thatcham care home have been transferred to other homes during the coronavirus pandemic without any outbreaks.

Residents and staff were moved from Walnut Close care home to West Berkshire Council-run homes in Newbury and Kintbury.

The home, off the A4 near Thatcham Library, could accommodate 35 residents but had 17 when the decision was made last year to close it.

Walnut Close care home in Thatcham. West Berkshire Council decided to close the home in 2020 (46413933)
Walnut Close care home in Thatcham. West Berkshire Council decided to close the home in 2020 (46413933)

West Berkshire Council decided to close the home as it was running at a loss and costly improvements would be needed to improve its 'Requires Improvement' Care Quality Commission rating.

Walnut Close care home is more than 50 years old and would have required £150,000 worth of building work last year alone to stay open.

The home was also not dementia-friendly and the council said its closure would help fund dementia-friendly improvements at Birchwood.

In a bid to save £330,000 a year, the council decided to close the home and move the residents and 25 full-time staff members to other care homes it runs – Birchwood Care Home in Newbury, Willows Edge in Newbury and Notrees Care Home in Kintbury.

The Conservative-run council said the pandemic “necessitated more urgent action” because there are no ensuite bathrooms at Walnut Close, so commodes were being used in people’s bedrooms and that was “not ideal for managing infection control”.

It said that every resident would be tested before and after they were moved, and transfers would be suspended if there were any outbreaks.

West Berkshire Council’s executive member for adult social care, Joanne Stewart (Con, Tilehurst Birch Copse) said all the residents have been successfully transferred and most were sent to Birchwood Care Home in Newbury.

West Berkshire Council executive member for adult social care, Joanne Stewart (46414087)
West Berkshire Council executive member for adult social care, Joanne Stewart (46414087)

“We have had no outbreaks of Covid 19 in any of the West Berkshire Council homes since the residents were moved,” she said.

“Birchwood did not get a second feared outbreak during the second national wave of the pandemic.

“As anticipated, some residents took a while to become accustomed to the layout in the new ‘Walnut Unit’ at Birchwood, however this has lessened over time

“We were able to isolate all residents in their cohort during the transfer which reduced the risk of any infection spread.”

Ten of the residents have been provided with their own wing in Birchwood Care Home (Walnut Unit) and most of the members of staff from Walnut Close have been transferred to that home.

All staff have been redeployed by the council and no one has been made redundant.

During the pandemic, there have been 92 Covid-related deaths at care homes across West Berkshire, according to Public Health England.

A decision on the future of Walnut Close following its closure is to be made by the council’s executive.

“Serious suggestions” include the sale of the land and structure, redeveloping the building to provide accommodation for rough sleepers, or council office space.



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