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Budget Proposal 2024/25: Close or find an alternative provider to run Willows Edge Care Home

Have your say.

Consultation status Results published
Start date: 2023-11-27
End date: 2024-01-11
Results 2024-02-29
Category:
Ward:

Activity closed. Results published.

Balanced scales

Background

West Berkshire Council is currently developing its Care Home Strategy to ensure we can deliver value for money and meet the needs of our residents. We currently run three care homes for older people: Birchwood, Notrees and Willows Edge. We aim to provide a high standard of care with dedicated staff who we support to gain specialist knowledge.  

  • Birchwood is a large care home (60 beds) in Newbury that delivers both residential and nursing care and is around 13 years old; there are currently around 40 residents and 81.5 full time equivalent staff posts - a refurbishment of the home took place in 2023 and all rooms are en-suite
  • Notrees is a small home (18 beds) in Kintbury that is over 40 years old; the residents have generally lower levels of need than those in Birchwood and Willows Edge - there are currently 13 residents and 19.4 full time equivalent staff posts; most bedrooms are equipped with en-suite toilets, and there are purpose-built bathrooms for safe and accessible bathing
  • Willows Edge is a medium size home (37 beds) in Newbury that is over 50 years old - the care is focused on people with dementia; there are currently about 31 residents and 37 full time equivalent staff posts - none of the rooms are en-suite

Many local authorities do not operate their own care homes, due to the rising cost of maintaining older homes and the availability of lower cost, quality provision by private providers.

We have experienced challenges over the past few years in recruiting staff for our  care homes which has resulted in the employment of a high number of agency staff, at a higher cost than directly employed staff. We have worked to reduce this reliance on agency staff, with numbers reducing substantially in recent months, but the cost of a council provided bed remains approximately 20% higher than one in the private sector.

The Adult Social Care Management team and the council's Executive has assessed our current provision as follows:

  • Birchwood provides the type of care which we expect to be in high demand in the coming years - the building is relatively new, in a good location and has recently had dementia-friendly adaptations installed
  • Notrees provides the type of care for which there is a reducing demand, but it is relatively low cost to run - a consultation was held on a potential closure in 2022 and the decision was taken at that time to continue operating the home
  • Willows Edge provides the type of care which is in high demand; however, it is being delivered in an older building which does not meet modern expectations, for example, most rooms are not en-suite - the maintenance requirements are also higher, due to the age of the building; alternative beds can be found at Birchwood and in private sector care homes in West Berkshire and neighbouring districts

Legislation Requirements

As a local authority, we have a duty to arrange the provision of nursing and residential care for eligible people in our area under the Care Act (2014). This can be provided either through the independent/external care homes market or directly by the council.

We also have a duty to ensure that the care provided in West Berkshire is of good quality and meets the requirements of the Care Quality Commission (CQC)


What we are proposing

To cease operating Willows Edge as a care home from 1 April 2024. There are two options:

  • option 1 - to close the home and relocate residents to Birchwood, other private care homes in West Berkshire and, if required, care homes in neighbouring districts; the site would be available for other uses, for example, conversion to housing or being sold as a freehold for redevelopment, resulting in a capital income for the council
  • option 2 - to source an alternative provider to continue to operate Willows Edge, with a cost of provision more aligned to that in the private sector; this could include an agreement on investment to improve the service and/or no investment from the provider to operate the business

For both options, we would expect to save between £250,000 and £500,000 per year, depending on occupancy and staffing ratios.

*Please note that Willows Edge Care Home is subject to another budget proposal about the restructuring of care home fees, alongside our other care homes. You can find more information here.


What we think the impact will be

For Option 1, although we recognise that moving to another care home might be unsettling for some residents and their families, care home and adult social care staff will fully support and sensitively manage the move for individual residents and their families. We will work to understand each resident's priorities and preferences and will work collaboratively to identify and secure an alternative, appropriate care placement.

There will be disruption for staff, but there is high demand for staff in the care sector and we will seek to retain as many staff as possible in suitable roles.

For Option 2, there will be less disruption for residents. It is unlikely that we would be able to improve the facilities at Willows Edge for some time, so residents' accommodation will not be of the same standard found in alternative care homes.

There will be disruption for staff. If a new provider were to operate the site, staff could have the option of being transferred under Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) legislation. 
 
Icon for pdf Please refer to the Equality Impact Assessment for further information [34KB] .


What else we have considered before arriving at our proposal

No other options to reduce expenditure in this area have been identified.


Why we want your views

We would like to know how these proposals might impact you, and any views you may have on how we can minimise the impact of these proposals, if the decision is taken to proceed with either of them.

As part of this consultation, we will be speaking directly with current residents and their families, staff who are directly affected, and other local stakeholders, e.g. Healthwatch and Age UK.

Your views will also be considered as part of our wider review of the market and care services in West Berkshire. 


How to take part

If you'd like to comment on these proposals, please complete our survey by midnight on Thursday, 11 January 2024. It should take about 10 minutes. 

If you have any questions about the consultation, please email asc.consultations@westberks.gov.uk

For general enquiries about Adult Social Care Services please visit our webpage.


What happens next

All the feedback we receive will be taken into consideration, and a final decision about whether to proceed with one of these proposals will be made by elected Members at the Full Council Meeting being held on Thursday, 29 February 2024.

If the decision is made to proceed with either proposal, the earliest that changes would be made to the way in which Willows Edge is operated would be in August 2024.

 

Back to the main Budget Proposal page

What you told us

In total, 280 responses were received. 


We also received 2 petitions signed by a total of 1,852 people:

  • an online petition with 1,786 signatures of which 722 (40%) had an ‘RG’ postcode
  • a hand-collected petition with 65 signatures of which all but one was ‘local’

A summary of the responses received is included in the agenda papers for each public meeting.

What we did

The budget for 2024/25 will be considered by councillors at the Executive meeting on Thursday, 8 February 2024, and then by Full Council on Thursday, 29 February 2024. It will also be discussed by members of the Special Scrutiny Commission on Tuesday, 6 February 2024.

All meetings will be open to the public and residents can attend either in person at the Market Street Offices or virtually.

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