Rushden care centre casualty of unitary split and funding shortage
It looks like neither the North or West unitary councils want to keep running the Spinneyfields Specialist Care Centre in Rushden
By Sarah Ward
A specialist care centre that helps people rehabilitate after a hospital stay looks likely to close as staff have been told by West Northamptonshire Council its days are numbered.
The Spinneyfields Specialist Care Centre in H.E Bates Way, Rushden, could close as soon as the end of January, with staff being called to a meeting on Friday to say they are at risk of redundancy.
Despite being located in the North of the county it is run and paid for by the West unitary as part of an agreement made when dividing up the services of the former county council.
A member of the public who contacted NN Journal and is aware of what was discussed at the meeting, said:
“West Northants Council can’t afford to keep it open. It is running at a loss of £1 million a year primarily due to ongoing costs of an ill advised PFI investment years ago. They say they have been negotiating with North Northants Council and health colleagues but no viable plan has been agreed to keep the home open.
“Given the 200 plus patients awaiting discharge at the hospitals and the fact that this winter will be the worst ever for the NHS and social care, this decision appears very shortsighted and only led by finances. All jobs will be lost, with a vague offer of redeployment for some of the home’s dedicated and hardworking staff. The county can’t afford to lose any more experienced carers, given its recruitment and retention is already one of the worst in the country.”
Spinneyfields is one of four centres built in 2004 under a controversial PFI (Private Finance Initiative) scheme agreed by the then labour administration running the county council. It was built and managed by Shaw Healthcare but in October 2018, in the months after the collapse of the county council, when all of the bad deals and mismanagement were being aired, it was revealed the centres had been running at well below occupancy for a number of years. This was in part due to high costs and under the terms of the agreement Shaw Healthcare could refuse certain patients. The former county council had been paying as much as £2m a year for empty beds and the former leader of the council who struck the PFI agreement conceded it had been a bad deal.
In October 2020, in the dying days of the council, a deal was struck which saw the council take over the running of the centres, nine years earlier than planned, but two years on it seems the problem remains and the centre is unaffordable.
Both unitary councils are predicting budget pressures and an overspend this year. This has in part been due to growing demand on services, coupled with inflation and rising energy costs due to the Ukraine war. If they take money out of their reserves they will be repeating the issues of the county council, which ultimately led to its bankruptcy. Instead it is likely there will have to be cuts to services.
Lack of public discussion
The decision to close the centre has not been discussed by either unitary council. A paper about transforming adult social services went before the North unitary earlier this Autumn (from which NN Journal exclusively reported the possible closure of two care homes in Desborough and Corby) but there was no mention of Spinneyfields being handed over by West Northamptonshire Council. Instead the authority said it had been approached by the West to take over Thackley Green in Corby - the other PFI specialist care centre in the area - and that it was considering a business case for it. It said final proposals were anticipated to go to the council’s executive on November 10 but this did not happen.
Cllr Helen Harrison is the executive member for adult social care in the North and former leader of the county council Matt Golby is the cabinet member for adult social care in the West.
We tried to contact Cllr Harrison yesterday but did not receive a response. Cllr Golby said in a statement issued through the media office, that Spinneyfields and three other specialist care centres were transferred to WNC on the the day the council was set up and the PFI charges are due to end on 2029.
“The specialist care centres provide short-term step-down care and provide social care therapy and rehabilitation following a hospital stay. Good practice in providing step down care for people in hospital is about placing the person as near to their home as possible, so that family and friends can continue to visit with ease and community connection is not lost. As Spinneyfields is in Rushden it has typically taken patients from Kettering General Hospital.
“However North Northamptonshire Council have indicated to us that it currently does not need these rehabilitation spaces at the Spinneyfields centre in Rushden, therefore the service is significantly underutilised at a significant cost to West Northamptonshire taxpayers. So pending ongoing conversations with partners about intended future use, we have had to start consulting with staff on the closure of the centre. We are actively looking to see how we can redeploy staff and have enough vacancies in other areas of the service to accommodate all affected.
“We have already established a different model at our specialist care centre, Turn Furlong. Here, to better meet the needs of West Northamptonshire residents and support discharge from hospital, our Council has increased service provision within the Reablement West Service, as well as partnering with Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT) to provide a new Recovering Independence Bed Unit providing short-term health and care services for patients who are not quite ready to return home after a hospital stay.
“This enables patients to access the right care, at the right time in the right place, to better support their recovery journey either closer to home or in their own home where suitable.”
When NN Journal called local councillors from across the two authorities yesterday they were all in the dark about the situation. The leaders of the opposition Cllr John McGhee and Cllr Wendy Randall had not been briefed on the situation. Pointing to discord between the two authorities, who are still tied together by a number of shared services, and after speaking to a senior officer, Cllr McGhee said the authorities appear to be blaming each other for the closure. It is unclear what discussions have taken place between the authorities.
Conservative Cllr Gill Mercer, who represents the Rushden ward where the centre is located, said:
“I know nothing I’m afraid, so I don’t want to comment. I will be looking into it.”
NN Journal contacted North Northamptonshire for a comment to clarify its stance and is awaiting a response.
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