West Sussex Council pays for unused care home beds

WEST Sussex County Council has been paying around £4.7million a year for more than 100 unused care home beds, councilors have been told.

The council has been in a 30-year deal with Shaw Healthcare for 17 years, costing £23.6million a year and giving the authority access to 590 beds in 12 care homes across the county.

A report on a meeting of the Health and Adult Care Review Board on Friday (July 8) said that in some months of 2021/22 less than 80 per cent of those beds were occupied and more than 100 remained unoccupied.

dr James Walsh (Lib Dem, Littlehampton East) said: “It is honestly a devastatingly shocking situation that we are paying almost £5million a year – wasted money – for beds that we have paid for [in] a block contract and we do not use customers.

“I know it’s easy with hindsight, but we should never have embarked on a contract that has bound us so much, has changed and put us in, over such a long period of time, where the care market and requirements are likely to change brought this situation.”

dr Walsh called for an ‘extremely robust’ renegotiation with Shaw ‘to ensure we don’t pay the taxpayers £4.5million to £5million a year money for about 100 beds that are unoccupied and that we can’t use’.

Alan Sinclair, Director of Adults and Health, told the meeting that negotiations with Shaw were “underway”.

He added: “This is not an easy negotiation and it will take a little while to get where we need to be.”

Among other things, the work will ensure that the right types of beds are provided in the right parts of the district to meet the needs of the population.

An update is due to be presented to the committee in the autumn, with a full report due in November.

The deal was signed in February 2005 and ends in 2035, with the £23.6m payable regardless of how many of the beds are unused.

Reassurances were given that the council would not pay for vacancies in care homes deemed “inadequate” – nor place anyone in such facilities – and that it was also cautious when that rate “needed improvement”.

In June, the committee was told that the quality offered by Shaw had improved.

In 2019/20, five homes were rated “good”, three “needs improvement” and four “unsatisfactory” by the Care Quality Commission.

Today, seven are rated as “good”, five as “needs improvement” and none as “unsatisfactory”.

Mr. Sinclair said the focus on quality was a collaborative effort between the council and Shaw.

He added, “We work very closely with Shaw. They are very supportive of our current plans to increase occupancy.

“They know that we will be conducting a review of our needs and understand that there will be contract negotiations at some point in the future.”

A spokesman for the council said the impact of the pandemic had put “unprecedented pressure” on adult social care services – a situation mirrored across the country.

He added, “Shaw Healthcare continues to follow state health guidelines that prevent residential homes with cases of coronavirus from accepting new admissions.

“This is an ongoing situation that is still having a major impact on the care sector and has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of occupied beds through our contract with Shaw Healthcare, as reflected in the figures provided.

“A short term plan has been developed with Shaw Healthcare to improve our utilization of the contract and we are already seeing improvement in occupancy.

“When the current maintenance contract was originally concluded, contracts of this duration were common.

“We continue to review the contract regularly and are working closely with Shaw Healthcare to ensure we and our residents get the maximum benefit from the agreement.

“We are committed to ensuring that sufficient and appropriate accommodation is in place to meet the current and continuing needs across West Sussex.”

READ MORE: Brighton care home rated ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission

https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/20285560.west-sussex-council-paying-unused-care-home-beds/?ref=rss West Sussex Council pays for unused care home beds

Fry Electronics Team

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