There is increasing evidence that Suffolk’s care homes are in deep trouble says David Ellesmere, Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Ipswich.
In February Fairfields House in Ipswich was closed down after hygiene and fire safety concerns.
In July Mildenhall Lodge - one of the new Care UK homes - was closed to new residents after only a couple of months. Relatives told of residents being left in soiled clothing; call bells not being answered; and not being able to locate staff within an acceptable amount of time.
Now yet another care home, Asterbury Place in Ipswich - again run by Care UK - has been closed to new residents for the second time in two weeks following an emergency inspection.
I’ve seen some of the complaints that led to the inspection. They are not only deeply worrying, but disturbingly similar to Mildenhall Lodge: refusing to help clean residents who have soiled themselves; failing to clean dried blood from a resident who had cut themselves; not responding to repeated alarm calls from a distressed resident.
A similar thread appears to run through the Care UK homes. When Suffolk County Council privatised its care homes, many staff refused to transfer to Care UK because their terms and conditions were worse. As a result Care UK is suffering from both an acute lack of staff but also a lack of experience.
This isn’t just limited to Care UK though. Fairfields House wasn’t run by them and I’ve heard of complaints about other homes in Suffolk.
We need to blow the lid off this and find out just how widespread the problems are. I’m glad that the Suffolk Health Scrutiny Committee is widening its investigations into care homes and is now calling for evidence.
If you or a relative have been affected by poor care please let me or one of your county councillors know and we can ensure this information is passed on to the investigation.
Alternatively you can contact the independent health and social care consumer champion Suffolk HealthWatch on 01449 703949 or firstname.lastname@example.org and they will pass your evidence on to the committee.
It is often a very difficult decision to place a relative into residential care. You need to be absolutely confident that your loved one is going to be treated with dignity and respect.
The problems arising from privatising Suffolk’s care homes were not unforeseen. Labour councillors did object, and gave warnings, at the time.
Sadly, Conservative councillors and our Conservative MPs weren’t prepared to listen. For them, the private sector is always best.
Indeed, when Asterbury Place opened in July Ipswich’s MP Ben Gummer took to his Ipswich Star column to say that it was “the best care home I have seen in Ipswich or Suffolk”. Care UK homes, he said, offer “the best residential care accommodation in the country … Yes, they are run by a private company, but yes they are so much better - so why should we care?”
Well, if he didn't know then, he must surely know now.
Ben rather quaintly described Labour councillors who raised concerns as “naughty”, accused us of “silliness” and “winding people up without reason, just to squeeze a few more votes”. Above all we should say “sorry”.
I didn’t apologise then and I’m not going to apologise now.
We were right about the privatisation of care homes in Suffolk and recent events have shown we were right.
Ben Gummer and Conservative County councillors were wrong and it is they who should be apologising to the people of Suffolk.