Nursing homes fight Devon on fees&

7 Jun 01
Angry nursing home owners in Devon have cancelled their contracts with the county council for the care of elderly people after the two sides failed to agree higher fees.

08 June 2001

Around 50 of the county's 160 nursing homes served 28-day termination notices on the council on June 6 and this figure is expected to increase over the coming weeks. Owners say the fees paid by the authority for providing nursing care for the elderly do not cover their costs.

The protest leaders will draw up a revised scale of fees in the next two weeks and, if the council refuses to pay them, contracts will end on July 4. The authority will then have to decide how to care for residents in future.

However, Neville Platt, chair of the Registered Nursing Home Association in Devon, told Public Finance that residents could stay in the homes.

Instead, owners would explore other options, such as suing Devon for non-payment of fees. `If the authority wants to move patients, that's their prerogative, but we will not evict anyone,' he said.

Devon pays around £330 per week for looking after each of the 4,000 elderly people it supports. The authority has proposed a revised fee structure for new residents, offering £360 per week for standard care and £380 for those with special needs, with further supplements of up to £20 per week available in areas facing staff shortages or other difficulties.

However, it is offering an increase of just 4%, to around £342, for existing residents. Platt said that while owners could accept the proposed fees for new patients, they could not subsidise the care of existing residents. `It costs us almost £400 per week to cover our costs. We provide a high standard of care and we've been doing it on the cheap for too long.'

Devon's director of social services, David Johnstone, said the authority had `enormous sympathy' for owners but could not afford to pay more than it had already offered.

`It is not councils that are doing them down. The government needs to recognise that there should be a significant funding increase,' he said.

Protests are gathering pace around the UK, with owners in Croydon, Sheffield and Wiltshire threatening to emulate the action in Devon. Campaigners in Birmingham brought traffic to a standstill in the city centre on June 2 to draw attention to the plight of home owners.


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