CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Vulnerable told to move out before Christmas after care home is sold

'Difficult and unsettling news'

19 November, 2020 — By Tom Foot

The St John’s Wood Care Centre in Boundary Road

DOZENS of highly vulnerable residents of one of Camden’s biggest care homes have been told to move out in the middle of the pandemic.

The upheaval comes after the 100-room St John’s Wood Care Centre, which backs onto the Rowley Way estate, was sold – and new operators said they wanted to close it for at least six months of renovation work.

The New Journal can reveal the care home in Boundary Road, within the borough of Camden despite its name, was bought by Rainbow Care Group Ltd in the height of lockdown.

It had wanted all residents, most of which are diagnosed with dementia, to have moved out by Christmas.

The council has sent a letter to families with relatives in the care home about the “difficult and unsettling news” and outlining its “regret”, adding that the firm had now agreed to delay the closure until after the festive period.

A staff source at the home, however, told the New Journal that some residents had already been “discharged” to homes outside of London “at short notice”, adding there were concerns the care home would in the future be run as an expensive “luxury” service. “Some have been living there for over a decade,” the source said.

Documents filed with the Land Registry show the four-storey building was sold by Jersey-based Patient Properties Ltd to Rainbow Care Group Ltd on June 11 for £6,475,000, following a transfer by UK-based Regency Investment Ltd. Regency Investments had bought the home from Life Style Care Plc, which had run it since it became privately owned in 1996.

A covenant in the original lease agreed with Camden Council states that the building must remain a care home.

In October, the home had 65 residents with 33 funded by Camden Council and 12 by Camden’s NHS, with 20 residents housed by neighbouring local authorities or through private arrangements.

In a letter sent to relatives, Camden said a phased closure would not happen because “of the size and scale of the works and … Covid-19 risk to residents associated with multiple outside contractors”.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated the home in July 2019 as “inadequate” – the lowest possible rating – and officially put it in “special measures”. It was judged as “not safe” leading to its operators being replaced. But in March this year, following a further inspection, it was upgraded to “requires improvement”.

The most recent CQC report, published last month, makes no mention of the sale or the building, but says: “The provider had supported everyone during this [Covid] period, and continued to do so, and it is worthy to note that the staff team had worked very hard to keep people as safe and as well cared for as possible during a very difficult time.”

Care company Bondcare London Ltd is the latest in a long list of private operators to manage the home, including Southern Cross, which was one of the country’s biggest care firms until its collapse in 2012.

At that time, the New Journal joined calls for St John’s Wood Care Centre to be brought back in-house and fully under council control.

This week, Town Hall care chief Cllr Pat Callaghan said: “We will ensure residents continue to receive the high quality care they need while they remain at the centre and are fully supported to move to their new home. Each resident has been allocated a social worker who is working closely with them to find a new home that meets their individual needs. We are aiming to find places for residents who want to stay in the area as locally as possible.”

The new operator or owner has not responded to requests for comment by the New Journal, made on Monday and Tuesday.

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