Elderly residents in tears after being told Burman House home could be closed by Norfolk County Council
- Credit: Archant
Residents in a care home threatened with closure broke down in tears when they were told its future was under review.
Norfolk County Council and Norse Care have launched an eight-week consultation into the future of Burman House at Terrington St John, near King's Lynn.
They say the cost of care provided in the home, on the Norfolk - Cambridgeshire border, is high because it has a 'high number' of bed vacancies.
When it was inspected and rated 'good' by the Care Quality Commission, in April, 26 of its 30 rooms were occupied.
The council and Norse say the best way of caring for residents in a cost-effective way would be to close Burman House and offer residents a place in another care home.
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Retired Stevedore Roger Tate, 70, from the Walpoles, is a close friend of one elderly resident who is in his 80s.
He said: 'They called a meeting of residents and family and just dropped this news on us out of the blue. There were residents crying, it was upsetting and unsettling for everyone involved.
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'They say it is an eight-week consultation but you know it is a forgone conclusion. I'm absolutely livid. Everyone has been handed a form and we are expected to be OK about this, but it is shattering people's lives.
'All residents will be assessed individually and sent to other homes, but where will that be? This is a small village and many will come from the local area. How will this be if they are sent many miles away. Their family wont be able to easily visit and they will feel isolated, lonely and unhappy.
'It seems they've already made the decision. They say the home doesn't have specialist handling equipment for example, so get it. There is a growing need for residential care, so why shut a home like this?' Jonathan Dunning, Norfolk branch secretary of the health union Unison, has written to Bill Borrett, chair of the county council's adult social care committee in protest at the proposed closure.
He wrote: 'UNISON understands the pressure Norfolk County Council's adult social care budget is under but we still find it unacceptable that NCC are squeezing Norse Care to make savings and have agreed that Norse Care proceed with a consultation on the closure of a residential care home regularly graded as 'good' by the CQC.
'Twenty-seven vulnerable elderly people are being forced to relocate from a high quality care home which they regard as a happy and stable home. This will be a significant ordeal for the residents and their families.
'Thirty staff face redundancy in an area where it will be difficult for them to find alternative employment. The Norse Care offer of redeployment to homes in King's Lynn or Downham Market will not be feasible for most of the 30.
'It is surely disgraceful at a time when care standards are under the spotlight that a top quality home, run by a top quality provider should be forced to closure to help balance a budget.'
Mr Borrett replied: 'As you are aware Norse Care is not run by the adult social care committee or the county council but is an independent company with its own management.
'The county council currently contracts with them for the provision of care just as it does with many other private care companies across Norfolk.
'Operational decisions such as the one you refer to in your email are a matter entirely for them and any queries that you have should be addressed to them.'
On the closure proposal, Mr Borrett added: 'The key isssue is the rooms are too small and it isn't fit for purpose.'
In a statement, Norse Care said: 'Many of the bedrooms at Burman House are small and this means that it is not possible to use specialist moving and handling equipment in these rooms. Over the past years the dependency levels of older people requiring, and being eligible for residential care, has increased substantially, and these levels continue to rise.
'Consequently, the demand for the small bedrooms has declined which has had a significant impact on the occupancy rates. A review of Norse Care's residential homes identified that the cost of providing care at Burman House is high because of a high level of bed vacancies and this has resulted in high overheads.
'Having considered the range of options, Norse Care are consulting on the future of Burman House.
'If, following the consultation, the proposal to close Burman House went ahead, current residents would be supported by Norse Care and adult social services to remain living in the area close to relatives and friends.
'Whatever the outcome, social services has a responsibility to look after all residents and will ensure everyone is given support.'
Burman House was for many years in the North West Norfolk constituency of MP Sir Henry Bellingham.
He said: 'I have many happy memories of Burman House, I even included it on my Christmas Eve tour. It always had an incredibly happy and positive atmosphere.'