Saved at 11th-hour: What happened to the second care home set for the axe in Northamptonshire?

Ecton Brook House has been earmarked for closure by Northamptonshire County Council - but what happened to the second Olympus care home set for closure?
Ecton Brook House has been earmarked for closure by Northamptonshire County Council - but what happened to the second Olympus care home set for closure?

A last-minute decision to spare a second care home in Northamptonshire for closure was only taken a day before the official announcement was made, according to county council chiefs.

On Tuesday, Northamptonshire County Council revealed it would be opening a consultation into shutting Ecton Brook House care home in the coming weeks.

But in December, the authority said it would be closing two facilities in the county run by Olympus Care Services in a bid to save £300,000 from the 2016/17 budget.

It is understood the decision to not include a second care home for closure was taken after council officers, director of adult social care Carolyn Kus and adult care’s cabinet member Councillor Suresh Patel, conducted a round of visits to all six Olympus homes over the last weekend of January.

The decision to only axe Ecton Brook was taken on Monday daytime - a day before the move was announced and after initial cabinet papers had been drawn up.

Councillor Patel (Con, Duston East) said: “It was after working with the families and listening to the residents of care homes, we came to this decision.

“We felt that in Northampton we had the capacity to lose a care home, but in places like Daventry and Towcester we just didn’t.”

The council has declined to say which other home could have been for the chop, though many sources the Chronicle & Echo spoke to feared the second home would be Evelyn Wright in Daventry, due to its ageing building and “requires improvement” Care Quality Commission rating. In 2009, the county council aired plans to shut the site as it said the building was not fit for purpose.

With an ageing population the council will need a further 3,000 elderly beds over the next five to 10 years, Councillor Patel said.

But during press conference on Tuesday director Ms Kus was asked how closing a care home could possibly help to increase the provision of elderly beds in Northampotnshire.

She said: “We are looking at how we can work with a range of partners at how to arrange allocation across the county.”

By this Councillor Patel explained, the council would be working with the private sector and the district and borough councils to increase the number of beds available.

The county council will look at possibly redeveloping some of the Olympus homes and possibly “replacing” one as well.

But with the council faced with having to make £82.9 million worth of cuts next year, it was also questioned what effect the decision to close just one home will have on next year’s budget. The projected saving will now, presumably be £150,000, rather than £300,000.

Ms Kus said: “It is not just about saving money - if we had just wanted to save money we would have gone and shut all six homes.

“This is about the wider longer term strategy.”

As for the remaining five care homes, Ms Kus assured the press conference they will not shut over the next five years, but they will be subject to an ongoing review.

With the consultation on shutting Ecton Brook about to start, Ms Kus said if there was an “overwhelming” response to keep the facility open, then the council’s cabinet would “have to take that into account.”

But Paul Crofts, of the Save Northants anti-cuts campaign, believes Ecton Brook is as good as closed.

“They are going to ask what do you think about us closing the care home, people will say this is terrible, and they will ignore it anyway.”

A spokesperson for Olympus Care said: “We welcome the council’s intention to improve the quality of lives of older people in Northamptonshire, and as part of that to work on a redevelopment plan for the homes we operate.

“We firmly believe that increased housing with 24-hour care on-site can support many more older people to have the benefits of their own home, while providing the security, care and support they need.

“Where care homes are the right place we increasingly need the right environment for what is becoming ever more specialised care.

“Sadly within the plans, the county council will also be consulting on a proposal to close Ecton Brook House. “Our priority will be to support residents, their relatives and Olympus team members during an inevitably uncertain time.”