Ipswich: Asterbury Place care home closed to new residents after emergency inspection

PUBLISHED: 06:00 16 October 2014

Asterbury place, ipswich

Asterbury place, ipswich

Ipswich’s newest care home has been told it can take no more county council residents after an emergency safeguarding inspection on Tuesday.

Care UK’s Suffolk history

Care UK took over Suffolk County Council’s 16 care homes on 1 December 2012.

It took over the service after agreeing to build 10 new care homes for between 60 and 80 residents each at a cost of about £60 million.

Care UK was formed in Essex in 1982 and over the last 32 years has grown to become one of Britain’s biggest healthcare companies.

As well as running care homes it runs some hospital services and out-of-hours doctors’ services. It took over Harmoni which used to provide out-of-hours services in Suffolk.

Since taking over the Suffolk care homes it has been building new, larger homes which has led to the closure of the older buildings which largely date from the 1970s or 1980s.

The first to open was Mildenhall Lodge, which opened its doors with a fanfare on June 20. However by July 29, and with half its 60 rooms occupied, new admissions were suspended after an inspection by the Care Quality Commission found concerns about four of its five criteria.

Asterbury Place in Aster Road, Ipswich, opened at the end of July replacing the Hawthorn Drive residential home and Angel Court in Hadleigh.

New admissions were halted a few weeks later to allow for more staff training, but they then resumed and 55 of its 80 rooms are currently occupied.

On Tuesday the county council imposed a suspension of new admissions after an emergency safeguarding inspection.

Care UK opened Davers Court in Bury St Edmunds in August and that is operating normally. It is also rebuilding Mills Meadow residential home in Framlingham. That is half finished and also continues to be open to new county council admissions.

Asterbury Place, in Aster Road, is the second brand new residential home built by Care UK in Suffolk this year to have admissions suspended.

The suspension comes just a few weeks after a similar move at Care UK’s Mildenhall Lodge home on the other side of the county.

This means that two out of the three brand-new Care UK homes in Suffolk now have suspensions on new admissions. A fourth care home, Mills Meadow in Framlingham, is currently being rebuilt by the company.

The move has caused deep concern at Suffolk County Council which transferred its own residential homes to Care UK nearly two years ago as part of a £60 million deal to build 10 new homes.

The county’s cabinet member for adult care Dr Alan Murray struggled to contain his irritation as he said: “It is extremely disappointing for the people at Suffolk County Council and Care UK that we need to see an improvement on both these occasions as the result of a failure in terms of the best quality of care.”

Dr Murray became aware of concerns on Tuesday afternoon – and the safeguarding team arrived at the home shortly afterwards.

Asterbury Place currently has 55 residents, the overwhelming majority paid for by the county council, but has a capacity of 80.

Yesterday the county’s health scrutiny committee was looking at the situation at Mildenhall Lodge which remains under suspension.

That was closed to new residents at the end of July, just days before an inspection by the Care Quality Commission which found problems with four of the five criteria it was judged against.

Officials from Care UK were at the meeting coming under fire from both county and district councillors.

Carole Hunt, chief operating officer at Care UK, told the meeting: “I would like to apologise on behalf of Care UK for the failures in quality care at Mildenhall Lodge and we totally accept it is unacceptable.”

She said the company had tightened up its procedures in an attempt to ensure there was no repeat of the problems.

However opposition adult care spokeswoman Sarah Adams raised the suspension at Asterbury Place.

She said it raised serious concerns about how well a large company like Care UK could manage individual homes – and hoped the CQC would soon inspect other new homes run by the company.

Ms Hunt said she had no details of the case because the investigation was still at a very early stage: “We were made aware of this yesterday evening by we cannot comment. There is one safeguarding referral. I understand it is from a social worker.”

Mid Suffolk councillor Elizabeth Gibson-Harries said Care UK were due to build new homes in her area – and wanted an assurance there would be no repeat of the problems seen at Mildenhall.

Mildenhall Lodge remains closed to new county council residents. The suspension will only be lifted once it has been given a clean bill of health by the CQC following a second inspection at the end of last month.

Ms Hunt said the company was due to send its response to the second inspection back to the CQC at the end of this week, and the final report should be published some time after that.

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