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Questions and Answers: Lady Forester Community Nursing Home

On 28th May 2010, ExtraCare announced proposals to consult over the closure of The Lady Forester Community Nursing Home and Forester's Court in Much Wenlock.

The single-site scheme is owned and managed by The ExtraCare Charitable Trust and supports elderly residents living there with a team of 28 staff.

Our staff at the scheme have provided an excellent standard of personal support and nursing care for local older people since 1996.

Following an eight week period of consultation, we will need to make a decision on closure, after 31st July 2010.  If the closure option is taken, this will not occur before January 31st 2011.

The decision to move forward with these proposals has been taken with considerable regret and follows a five year period during which the Trust has willingly sustained an ongoing commitment to the scheme, despite operating losses of over £336,000.

We have responded to a significant number of queries during recent weeks and would like to share a summary of these questions and responses for the benefit of all those involved in the consultation process.

If you have further questions and answers, please write to:

Nick Abbey,
Chief Executive,
The ExtraCare Charitable Trust,
Abbey Park,
Humber Road,
Coventry,
CV3 4AQ.

Or please email:  nick.abbey@extracare.org.uk

 

The Delivery of Care and Support

1.  What support is being given to residents at Lady Forester?

We are mindful of the significant distress and disruption caused at this difficult time.  Individual meetings are being held between our staff and residents with their relatives, so that each person can discuss their personal situation, express their views and receive appropriate support.

We have also attended group meetings with residents and relatives to respond to their questions.  We will continue to support residents and staff with regular communications, personal meetings and group forums.

If closure goes ahead we will appoint a key worker to support each resident.  Our key worker will discuss the options and assist each resident during their move to another home or other location of their choice.   

2.  Is it up to residents to find a suitable alternative home on their own?

No, we will make every effort to ensure that residents are able to find a new home.

We will also work closely with Shropshire Council and other providers to consider suitable, alternative care homes or very-sheltered housing accommodation which could provide ongoing care and support for all of those residents affected.

3.  If the closure goes ahead, how much choice will residents have in selecting their new homes?

Every effort will be made to seek a suitable placement that meets the wishes and needs of each resident affected.  Wishes will be considered personally, responding to individual needs through a process of meetings with residents and their relatives.

Should residents choose to make plans independently they would still receive our support, as appropriate to their wishes.

4.  If closure goes ahead will there be any financial help provided to the residents?  For example for removal costs and the replacement of carpets and curtains

Yes, we would absolutely consider these costs on an individual basis

5.  Do you have any other ExtraCare located schemes nearby?

ExtraCare runs Chillcott Gardens in Madeley, near Telford, in conjunction with the Anchor Trust. In the event of closure, if spaces were available and the scheme was able to provide a service that was compatible with each individual's assessment needs, then a move to Chillcott could be considered.  We would be happy for any person in this situation to visit the scheme.

Further afield, ExtraCare runs other schemes in Wolverhampton.  There is also a village in Birmingham with potential vacancies.  Further villages are opening in Gloucester and Milton Keynes during the next 18 months.

We are mindful that ExtraCare's other schemes are not local to Much Wenlock and will focus our efforts on relocating residents close by, according to their wishes.

6.  Are the four Lady Forester GP beds, held specifically for the community, at risk?

The Primary Care Trust served notice to withdraw these beds, when the consultation was launched, but has indicated that it will maintain them should the home continue in some form.  We understand that this would be on an annually renewable contract.

Supporting Staff

7.  In the event of closure what are you doing to support staff?

We recognise the high quality of the care provided by staff at the scheme and the compassion that they have shown towards residents over a number of months and years.   We hope that staff would remain in post until the proposed closure has been completed at the end of January 2011.

In the event of closure, we will continue meeting with staff to consider their individual needs.  We will support staffs' reasonable wishes with regard to their seeking employment that may be available within ExtraCare, or outside the Trust.

In the event of redundancy, we would meet our full obligations providing advice and support as part of this process.

Consulting with Community and Stakeholders

8.  Since the consultation announcement was made to residents, relatives and staff who else have you shared information with?

We have made phone calls, attended meetings, sent letters or issued other written information by email to many people living in Much Wenlock, and to:

  • Much Wenlock Town Council and Councillors
  • Much Wenlock's GP Service
  • Shropshire Council
  • Shropshire Primary Care Trust
  • The Care Quality Commission (CQC)
  • Local and National Press
  • Other stakeholders as appropriate

ExtraCare's Chief Executive has responded to two further requests to meet with relatives and residents at the scheme.  These meetings took place on the 10th and 17th June 2010.  We are also responding individually to questions raised by letter, phone call and email.

If you have not received a response to a particular query or request within a reasonable timescale, please contact Anna Adams at ExtraCare on 02476 506011 or anna.adams@extracare.org.uk.

We will continue to consider representations from residents and staff, the community, stakeholders and partners.  The period of consultation continues until 31st July 2010.

Maintenance and Re-development

9.  Why was maintenance of the existing Victorian building not carried out earlier?

Essential maintenance was undertaken to ensure that the scheme could be operated safely.  However, Lady Forester is an old building and is running at a loss.  We felt unable to proceed with extensive and expensive repairs whilst future development options were under consideration.

Whilst the Care Quality Commission is fully satisfied that the scheme is well managed by ExtraCare's staff team, the Commission says that these essential preventative repairs must now be undertaken if the building is to remain open.

10.  We're told £2m is needed to re-furbish Lady Forester?  It could be done for less couldn't it?

This figure of £2m comes from a report produced by our architects and would cover replacement of the roof and heating system as well as many other items.  It would not include refurbishment (beyond a very basic safety level) of the upper floors.

When undertaking this sort of major work, it is common to discover further repairs that need to be done; so it is possible that the amount set aside may be insufficient

We have made available a copy of the specification of this work to local people who have asked for it.

11.  A planning application to develop 65 apartments on the existing site and additional adjacent land was denied in 2005. Why didn't you re-submit the application?  Couldn't you do this now?

We did consider renewing this application at the time and were advised by consultants that it was unlikely that permission would be granted.

A further planning application could be considered for the 65-apartment proposal. However, the risks linked to this proposal are considerable and include the following considerations:

  • If the adjacent land was available for sale, it is likely that it would cost more than the £600,000 agreed for its purchase in 2005.
  • Homes within the new scheme would need to be purchased.  We believe that this would involve significant risk in a rural market during a downturn in the economy.
  • The total capital cost of the proposal is estimated to be £11m.  In the current financial climate we are concerned as to whether grants would be available and whether the new scheme could break-even - and therefore remain economically sustainable.
  • We are not confident that the revenue support for people receiving care would automatically be available.
  • There is no guarantee that planning consent would be forthcoming.
  • We would still face the difficulties over the current condition of the Victorian building.

Given the risks involved, the Trust is not minded to re-submit a planning application linked to this proposal.

12.  Planning permission was given in 2007 to develop five further bungalows and refurbish the Victorian building.  Why was this option not considered?

The estimated cost of developing the additional bungalows and refurbishing the Victorian building would require a capital cost of £5.5m.  Assuming property sales amounting to £3.9m could be achieved, this would still result in a net increase of four bed spaces and an annual loss to the Trust of a predicted £68,000 per annum.

Given these circumstances, grants or fundraising of at least £2m would be required for ExtraCare to consider this option.  Currently, we do not believe that this option is viable.

13.  Could you relocate the business locally? Is there anywhere that people could move to as a group?

We are not aware of any local property or site that could be used to re-build and run a viable scheme.  We do not believe that the sale of the current scheme could fund the development of another site locally, nor that the timescales would work given the repairs needed now at the nursing home.

14.  Why don't you sell the scheme to another care provider so that residents and staff can remain at the home?

The Charity has explored how the scheme could continue to provide housing with care by selling the site to another provider, so far without success.

We continue to look at this option and will consider all reasonable offers seriously.

Selling the Land

15. Who has approached you to purchase the site for other purposes?

Shropshire Homes have acquired the land adjoining the Lady Forester Community Nursing Home.

As part of the process for them to submit a planning application for their own site, Shropshire Homes needed to talk to ExtraCare about the interface between their two respective boundaries and how this would be dealt with. Arising from these discussions and understanding ExtraCare's current difficulties with the nursing home, Shropshire Homes have made an offer to acquire the whole site from ExtraCare.

If the offer was accepted, it would be Shropshire Homes' intention to build houses on part of the site, and also to retain and refurbish (as apartments) the Victorian building.

However, we continue to look at alternative options, and are consulting locally until 31st  July 2010.  No contract has been signed between ExtraCare and Shropshire Homes.

16.  What would happen with the proceeds of any sale?

During the past five years the scheme has made losses in excess of £336,000.  In addition, proposed closure would absorb significant costs associated with supporting residents and staff during the process.

Therefore, funds from any sale would be used to offset those losses and costs.

Should any funds remain, they would be used to support the Trust's activities in line with the requirements of its Trust Deed.  ExtraCare is a charity (registered charity no. 327816) and does not have shareholders or pay dividends.

If closure goes ahead, we would contact local organisations who have given money recently for specific purposes, to see whether equipment purchased can be returned or re-used elsewhere.

The Trust and Its Duty

17.  Have you had any recent significant offer of local charitable support to help repair and maintain the scheme?

No significant offer has been forthcoming.  When the Trust took over Lady Forester Community Nursing Home in 1996, it was generously given almost £300,000 from the previous owners (Much Wenlock Nursing Home Trust) and from the League of Friends, together with the land.  £500,000 was also raised through fundraising.  Since then, that money has been used towards the cost of Foresters Court and to run and maintain the scheme.

18.  The scheme may not be making money but don't you have a charitable duty to subsidise it?

ExtraCare has subsidised this scheme for five years and has accrued significant losses amounting to over £336,000.

It is after significant deliberation and with much regret that we feel that this situation is no longer sustainable. ExtraCare's duty is to use its resources to provide housing and care for older people, and it carries on doing that across a large part of the country.

19.  You are spending your funds on upgrading or developing schemes in other areas - is that where the money's going?

No.  The finance required to develop or upgrade schemes that are sustainable and meet significant demand in other areas are not dependent on or related to the proposed closure of the scheme.

20.  Were there any covenants linked to the long-term future of this site?

We are not aware that there are any covenants linked to either Lady Forester Community Nursing Home or Foresters Court, or the site, that require the scheme to be operated in perpetuity.  As a charity, if the land is sold, we will have to demonstrate that the sale was on the best terms reasonably obtainable at the time.

21.  Can we have access to your charitable records and records linked specifically to the Lady Forester home?

It is important that you are able to access records and hold the Trust to account.  Our accounts are a matter of public record and you are welcome to access these documents through the Charities Commission.

We will consider all other reasonable requests and support your enquiries wherever possible.  Already, we have been happy to supply financial information and records linked to the scheme, as requested, on an individual basis.

22.  What is the ExtraCare Charitable Trust?

The ExtraCare Charitable Trust is a leading provider of activity-based support for older people, supporting over 3000 residents in 20 Midlands-based housing schemes and 10 retirement villages.

Founded in 1988, the Trust works in partnership with like-minded local authorities, regeneration bodies, charitable trusts and developers to enable older people to participate in an active and healthy lifestyle.