A struggling Alnwick care home is to close amid financial difficulties sparked by critical inspection reports earlier this year.
Ravensmount Residential Care Home, on Alnmouth Road, was given the lowest rating of inadequate following a visit by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) earlier this year.
A new operator had taken over in the aftermath of this criticism, but a referral suspension remained in place, meaning the low occupancy could not increase.
This week, the Gazette learned that residents and their families had been informed that the home is to close.
In a statement, Gemma Touray, the managing director/registered provider, from Touray & Co, said: “Due to financial reasons caused by the continuous low occupancy, it has been difficult to run the home and meant that we cannot carry on.
“We had a referral suspension due to the problems we inherited from the previous owner and have been working extremely hard to address them.
“Even though there have been some significant improvements, it has been difficult to convince the authorities to remove the suspension, allow us to accept referrals and let us flourish as a care home.
“After consultations, it has been a very difficult decision for us to make with no other option but to close Ravensmount Care Home.
“We realise that it is so close to Christmas, but no time is a good time to impart bad news such as this.”
Ms Touray added: “The company maintains its duty of care towards its residents and staff members and will support them in any way possible to help find new homes and new employment.”
In April, the Gazette reported that Ravensmount had been rated inadequate, the lowest of the four ratings under the new inspection regime introduced by the CQC, the independent regulator of health and social care.
And this inspection was to follow up on concerns raised during an audit in August 2014, which found breaches of three regulations relating to cleanliness and infection control, maintenance of the premises and quality monitoring.
While the new report acknowledged some improvements, with Ravensmount being ranked as good in terms of being caring, it still required improvement in that the service was ‘not always effective’ and ‘not always responsive’ and was rated inadequate for safety and being well-led.
Then in June, the CQC released a statement detailing how it had taken action against the care-home owner.
In its statement, the regulator explained it has taken action to remove Ravensmount from the registration of provider Moorlands Holdings (NE) Limited, to protect the safety and welfare of people in its care. The decision meant that it could no longer legally operate at that location.
At the time, Debbie Westhead, deputy chief inspector of adult social care at CQC, said: “People are entitled to services which provide safe, effective, compassionate and high-quality care and Moorlands Holdings (NE) Limited has failed the residents of Ravensmount Residential Care Home.
“A new provider, Touray & Co Limited, has successfully applied to take over the running of the home, allowing all nine residents to remain at the premises.”
However, the then responsible individual, David Ratliff, said that Touray had been lined up to take over since June last year.
A statement from Moorlands Holdings said: “The company, having provided excellent care to valued residents for 11 years, is delighted that Touray and Co obtained registration with the CQC to provide care and to add nursing soon to the facilities.
“Touray and Co contacted the company in June 2014 asking to take over and have worked well within the home, having a contract for managing/consulting since October 2014, and liasing well continuously while they awaited registration for which they applied in September.”
Alnwick ward councillor, Heather Cairns, said: “They are trying to deal with it in a way which will seek to move the residents in time to somewhere suitable in agreement with the residents and their families.”
She added that the care team at Northumberland County Council had been involved in discussions for sometime and ‘it has been quite carefully dealt with by County Hall’.