More than 140 beds are laying empty each week at private care homes being paid for by Northamptonshire County Council because the patients the authority is referring do not qualify under the contract.
A report released by the council this week has revealed that a huge percentage of the 204 beds it pays for across four health care centres run by Shaw Healthcare are unused.
The terms of the contract, which were agreed by the then Labour-run council 15 years ago, mean that a number of patients the council wants to refer to the beds are not eligible, so the beds remain unused.
The authority says the care centres have been running consistently at 50 to 70 per cent unoccupied, so at times 142 of the 204 beds are vacant.
The annual contract being paid by NCC to Shaw for the 204 beds is £8.8m. On top of these costs the authority also has to pay an additional £600 to 700 per week per person to put those in need of a bed in other homes.
The Shaw Healthcare homes are based across the county – Thackley Green in Corby, Longlands Specialist Care centre in Daventry, Lancum House in Wellingborough and Turn Furlong in Northampton.
The report, which will be discuss by NCC cabinet members on Tuesday along with other elements of the rescue plan, says: “The purpose and provision of service originally prescribed has changed, as have the needs of the health economy. The contract envisaged that people being referred would require low levels of rehabilitation, nursing or respite but these type of clients currently go home from hospital with short term or no support and would no longer be referred to Shaw by the council.”
The council says it has made several attempts to change the terms of the contract.
The PFI contract still has 10 years left to run and the authority has said in the report that to buy out the contract is currently unviable. It says it is in continued negotiations with Shaw about a buyout figure.
A number of options are now being considered by the council to get better value from the contract include including the authority actively challenging any placements that Shaw refuses.
A spokesman for Shaw Healthcare said: “It would be inappropriate for us to comment at this stage but we can confirm that we do have a PFI contract with the council and that we remain committed to working with the council to help it provide the best value for money for the council and the people of Northamptonshire.”
Liberal Democrat councillor at NCC Chris Stanbra said: “The county council says they have challenged the contract and I believe they have.
“Having challenged it they should have then sought to apply pressure on Shaw from other areas. They should have taken it to the MPs and ministers.”
Sarah Ward, Local Democracy Reporter