Latest Council property sell-off will put ‘unbearable’ strain on local hospitals

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Residents asked to act now to save provision for Dementia patients.

Local NHS services are set to be stretched to breaking point by RBKC Council’s apparent eagerness to sell off a prime Chelsea property with 56 nursing home beds. Though the Council are proposing to build more ‘Extra care housing’ (flats for the elderly with less critical needs) elsewhere, patients with nursing needs, that the borough is currently capable of looking after, will have nowhere to go but in to NHS hospitals.

In a predictable next step in the ‘Dovehouse Demise’, the clearance of properties publicly owned or in community use around Dovehouse Green in the heart of Chelsea, RBKC Council are running a ‘consultation’ on the future of the Thamesbrook nursing home site, immediately north of the Green. Thamesbrook is a 56-bed nursing and residential home for elderly people.

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In May 2014 we reported on the discovery of Legionella bacteria in the water system at Thamesbrook. A problem that independent hospital water specialists described as simple to treat and quick to make safe. The council, however, chose to evacuate the residents, sending vulnerable patients on risky transfers to other homes, a significant number out of the borough. Six months on, none of the residents have been able to return and, as many predicted, the Council is now ‘consulting’ on their preferred option to, “permanently close the home and sell the site for redevelopment.”

The council’s current ‘consultation’ document claims, “Thamesbrook has been temporarily closed since June 2014 following the discovery of intractable Legionella bacteria in the water system. This led to an unacceptable reduction in care standards for residents at the home. Residents were safely transferred from Thamesbrook and continue to be well looked after in placements in other homes, which the majority of residents have decided to make permanent.

“Moving residents from their home is not something that the Council does lightly. It seemed prudent, given the difficulties with the layout of the building and the changing needs of older people, to consider its future whilst it was empty. So, in July 2014 the Council began a review of a wide selection of options for the long-term future of Thamesbrook.”

The council have suggested four options for residents to agree or disagree to:

Option 1: Fully refurbish or rebuild the existing home so it meets current standards.

Option 2: Permanently close the home, and redevelop the site to deliver affordable extra care housing.

Option 3: Permanently close the home. Sell the site for redevelopment as private extra care housing for older people and develop affordable extra care housing at the Council owned site in Lots Road, SW10.

Option 4: Permanently close the home. Sell the site for it to be redeveloped for an alternative use such as private housing and develop affordable extra care housing at the Council owned site in Lots Road, SW10.

“The Council believes that Option 3 would be the best way forward. It offers an opportunity to maximise the amount of extra care housing in the south of the borough. It would provide at least 100 units of extra care housing to buy or for affordable rent, as well as generating funds to help pay for further units in future.

“This option would involve the permanent closure of the home. Whilst an extra care housing scheme at Lots Road is developed, the Council would continue to purchase high quality nursing and residential care placements in the independent and voluntary sector – including 20 new nursing beds the Council is developing at Ellesmere House in Chelsea.

Option 3 would also negate the need to apply for a change of use for the property and yet still take it out of public ownership. This would mean that they could, technically, increase the number of places for the elderly in the Borough, albeit that many would have to be very rich to live at the new Thamesbrook site. What they fail to mention is that this also means that there will be a hundred percent decrease in provision for those who actually need nursing home care, like dementia or Alzheimer’s suffers, which Thamesbrook  currently is able to cater for. The council will, effectively, be pushing those sufferers into NHS hospitals, already suffering from critical bed shortages.

One resident who’s mother suffers from severe dementia, and was moved from Thamesbrook in June, said, “patients like my mother need constant nursing care, without places like Thamesbrook she would need to be in a hospital. Anything but an increase in the number of nursing beds in the borough will be placing unbearable strain on local NHS hospitals which are already over stretched.”

“Extra care housing” is defined by the council as, “a specialist form of housing for older people. Residents live in their own flats but have access to care and support services on site 24 hours a day, if they need it. This means extra care housing can accommodate people with a range of needs, including those who would otherwise currently be catered for in residential care. Extra care housing schemes can feature communal spaces for residents, for example activity rooms, a hairdressing salon or restaurant, and could offer properties either for purchase (private) or for rent from the Council or a Housing Association (affordable).”

Care for elderly people is currently provided at the following homes in the Royal Borough:

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With a population of  over 160,000 people, currently elderly care provision is made for just 0.2% of the Borough’s population whereas Alzheimer’s alone, just one form of Dementia, affects over 1 percent of the population.

“Reducing our ability to care for those who are most in need is perverse in the extreme,” said one resident, “can it be greed getting the better of the council again?”

Even the council, arguing for more ‘extra care housing’ points out, “The proportion of older people going into residential care is declining as more are supported at home; on the other hand the total number of older people is rising. For example it is estimated we will see a 98 per cent increase in the number of people aged 85+ by 2030; from approximately 2,700 to 5,300 residents and the number of older people aged 85+ living with dementia in the borough is predicted to double by 2030, to over 1,300 residents.”

Residents are encouraged to respond to the consultation and complete the questionaire. Campaigners are keen for the Council to retain it’s ability to care for those with more critical needs rather than provide, “glorified granny flats.”

Residents are urged to sign the 38 Degree petition here

They are also asked to respond to the council’s own consultation document and “strongly oppose” all options they give. Their online questionnaire does not give you the chance to select what the council call, in their paper document, “Option 1: Fully refurbish or rebuild the existing home so it meets current standards.”

The consultation will close on 31 January 2015.

You can also write to the council at the following address with any additional comments:

Thamesbrook Consultation
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
The Town Hall
Hornton Street
London
W8 7NX

Or email: ThamesbrookConsultation@rbkc.gov.uk

The council say, “We will also be consulting individually with former relatives and residents who wish to be involved. We will provide independent advocacy support to those who need it and don’t have family or friends who are able to advocate on their behalf.

“The Cabinet report containing further information about Thamesbrook and the review of options can be found on our Key Decision Tracking page.”

More information

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