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Care quality concerns over jobs cull at Southern Cross

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Have the difficulties experienced by Southern Cross made you more wary of working for a private company?

Care quality could plummet and residents die as a result of troubled care home giant Southern Cross’s decision to cut 3,000 jobs and the likelihood of home closures, it has been warned.

The company, which is the largest care home operator in the UK, announced last week that 3,000 jobs would be axed by October.

Managers and administrators will escape the cull but around 300 of the firm’s 6,000 registered nurses are said to be at risk.

Southern Cross faces serious financial problems after its former private equity owners Blackstone sold its assets to landlords and then leased the premises back.

Rising borrowing costs, reduced fees from local authorities and soaring rental bills have forced the stricken firm to ask landlords to reduce rents for the next four months.

The latest decision to reduce posts has led to fears that reducing staffing levels will adversely affect quality of care.

Unison head of health Christina McAnea told Nursing Times: “That’s one of the major concerns we have about the threats of redundancy. Nurses are the gatekeepers of quality and safety in these care homes and if we start cutting the number of qualified nurses we’ve got some real dangers there.”

Many commentators believe homes will inevitably have to close or be taken over by new management.  

Ms McAnea warned: “If you move elderly residents, lots of them die within months – that’s proven fact. If homes close and people are forced into another care setting there will be serious consequences.”

Southern Cross director of care Irene Gray, a former nursing director, told Nursing Times: “There’s no way we’re going to close 750 homes tomorrow.” They would stay open “even if they aren’t managed or run by Southern Cross”, she said.

She added: “It has been humbling when I see the resilience of the nurses working in the homes, even with all that is going on around them. The one thing they say to me is ‘why won’t the media just leave us alone?’” Staff had been left “emotionally” drained” by stories in the press, she claimed.

Regarding staffing, she said the company had carried out a careful review and was introducing an advanced healthcare assistant role, equivalent to the assistant practitioner position found in NHS organisations. She said managers had flexibility to set ratios of registered nurses to healthcare assistants locally.

You can discuss this further on our Nursing Times forum, connect with your peers!

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  • 5 Comments

Readers' comments (5)

  • This is exactly why private shouldn't be allowed in the NHS.

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  • and which bright spark chose to lighten the books in the short term only to discover it backfire months down the line. Totally agree with above comments - of course it will cost more in the long term when managers these days are so short sighted. Privatization is occurring and this will be the NHS in fewer years than we realize

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  • if the tory cronies get there way this will be the nhs very soon

    nurses made redundant, hospitals closing etc

    they have been in govt a year and and we are heading to be a third world country, remember the eighties with thatcher, the days are returning!!!!!

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  • how can they cut nurses ?? surely they have minimum requirements to meet ?? does this mean that they will be somehow cutting back on service users then ??? can't see the logic here ... less nurses - less service users - less money !!!!!

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  • Some care homes benefit from business the biggest ones don't seem to and as the above shows factory managment models and shareholders shout louder than nurses or the elderly.
    An even worse staff/resident ratio here in future should be illegal.
    All staff currently reach targeted speeds of 'care' that patient, nurse and care-worker cannot cope with. LOWER THE RATIO-RAISE THE STANDARDS.

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