MEP’s fears over care home future

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ANXIETY over the future of a threatened care home is driving worried staff to check their employer’s stock price every morning, according to an MEP who visited the facility.

But Richard Howitt, Labour MEP for the East of England, insists the uncertain fate of the Southern Cross-owned Woodland care home in Thetford has not affected the staff’s professional performance.

Woodlands is one of 15 homes in Norfolk that could become a casualty of the stricken care home provider’s financial crisis.

Mr Howitt visited Woodlands on Monday to speak to staff about their work.

He said he was concerned about the future for residents, should Southern Cross go under.

“This is a home for eight people, very profoundly disabled, both learning and physical. We are talking about the most vulnerable people in our society.

“If Southern Cross were to fold, there’s a likelihood that the residents would have to move on. They are frail people and that could shorten their lives,” he said.

He was told that repairs at the home had stopped but that the quality of care had been maintained.

Proposals by Southern Cross to reduce working hours – meaning no handovers between staff on consecutive shifts – would lead to a reduction in the quality of care, according to Mr Howitt.

“They can’t come on duty and not have a hand over to find out what was going on overnight,” he said.

Carers told Mr Howitt that the reduction in hours would also affect their income – meaning many long-serving staff would have to look for other employment.

In a prior statement, Mr Howitt emphasised that it was not care workers’ performance that sparked the care giant’s difficulties.