Nursing homes in crisis...

PUBLISHED: 06:57 27 April 2006 | UPDATED: 09:11 24 May 2010

A LOOMING care 'crisis' means several nursing homes in Weston are on the brink of closure, one expert has warned. With more than 112 empty beds in the town's nursing homes, some owners are facing financial meltdown and frail pensioners are suffering. Up t

A LOOMING care 'crisis' means several nursing homes in Weston are on the brink of closure, one expert has warned.With more than 112 empty beds in the town's nursing homes, some owners are facing financial meltdown and frail pensioners are suffering. Up to four nursing homes could close in the near future.These are the claims made by Gordon Butcher, regional chairman of the Registered Nursing Homes Association.The situation has, he says, been caused by the Government's drive towards care in the community where elderly people are nursed in their own homes.He says many elderly people are so poorly cared for in the community that when they are finally referred to a nursing home, they are often malnourished and in a critical condition. Mortality rates in Weston's nursing homes are rocketing as a result, he also claims.Mr Butcher, who has been involved with nursing care for nine years and the care sector for 27 years, has criticised the standard of care in the community.While these services are the responsibility of both North Somerset Council and North Somerset Primary Care Trust (PCT), Mr Butcher says the problem is caused by the lack of money from the Government.The 49-year-old said the care provided for pensioners at home is 'often fragmented and vastly diluted' in comparison with residential nursing care as well as being three or four times more expensive.Mr Butcher said: "I have massive concerns about the drive towards care in the community for the elderly as being a replica of previous schemes for children's services and mental health patients in the late 1980s and 1990s."There was a blind enthusiastic drive to place everything in the community and it failed dismally because of under-funding by the Government. I think the elderly model is going the same way. This is a crisis and nursing homes are having to pick up the pieces."The council's social services department has gone more than £1million in debt trying to meet the care guidelines because of a shortfall in Government funding, he said."It's not the council's fault. It is having to jump through Government hoops and it loses money if it doesn't do what it is told," said Mr Butcher.The council said the average cost of its community care packages is cheaper than paying for care in nursing homes. It says the number of people it has placed in nursing homes has gone up in the last year. The likely cause of the increase in empty beds, the council says, is due to a fewer number of people who pay to go into a nursing home. A PCT spokesman said it works with the council to provide 'high quality' care in the community.

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