Suffolk County Council had identified some years ago that it needed help to meet the increasing demand for specialist care for frail older people, including the growing Suffolk population with dementia. Key requirements of the tender included a sustainable way to provide high quality specialist care while achieving better value for money and greater emphasis on a service able to deliver comprehensive nursing care rather than just residential homes. It also sought a partner with the financial strength to fund a substantial building modernisation programme.
When the original procurement process started, 23 different organisations expressed an interest in the homes. Care UK has been selected on the strength of its innovation, commitment to quality care for older people and a combination of expertise in residential, nursing and dementia care. Care UK has been the preferred bidder for the contract since 17th April and after a thorough process of due diligence the Council’s Cabinet today approved the awarding of the contract.
Residents and employees at the 16 homes have already been told about the plans in letters and at meetings held over the past few weeks. Over 1000 employees who will transfer to Care UK on their existing terms have also been invited to meetings to hear more about the plans.
Care UK will take over responsibility for the 16 care homes and 8 wellbeing centres this autumn. A carefully coordinated and phased £60 million investment programme will take three and a half years to complete and by 2016 ten bespoke new care homes and ten new wellbeing centres will replace all the existing homes and wellbeing centres which date from the 1960s and 1970s.
Toby Siddall, Care UK’s Residential Care Services Managing Director, said: “We are delighted to have been selected to work in partnership with the Council and to play a part in the future of care for older people in Suffolk. We know that any change can be daunting and when the time comes to move into each new home we will take every care to ensure that support is tailored to each individual resident.
"Right now we are focused on continuing the quality care provided to residents across the Council’s homes and my team and I are looking forward to getting to know the care home teams, and the residents and families who will be at the centre of everything we do.”
The new care homes (ranging in size from 60 to 80 places) will boost the number of care home beds from 526 in the 16 homes transferring to 680. The ten wellbeing centres will provide 250 day care places.
Care UK designs its new homes to include features which help residents including those with dementia to maintain interest and remain active. These features include a coffee shop for residents, families and friends, hairdressing and beauty salon and even a small cinema.
The new wellbeing centres, which will be built adjacent to the new care homes, will provide specialist day “clubs” for people who still live in their own homes including services for people who have dementia.
The quality of nursing care in the homes and overall responsibility for helping existing residents to move into their new home will be overseen by Care UK’s director of Nursing Frances Gibson, herself a Suffolk resident. Over the past few weeks, Frances has visited most of the existing homes to meet residents and their families and talk about the kind of homes that Care UK offers.
Frances said: “When Care UK takes over the day to day operation of the Council’s care homes little will change initially, so residents can be reassured that they will continue to see the same much loved faces. Once we’ve got to know everybody, we’ll start to share more information about what our new homes are like – light, airy, with en-suite facilities in every room and dedicated activity co-ordinators whose job it is to find out what residents like to do and arrange events, hobby sessions and visits for everyone."
Frances continued: “New homes will also have a team of highly trained nurses and modern facilities for people who need higher levels of care. This should be good news for residents in the future as, at the moment, they may have to move out of a much loved home into one that provides nursing and dementia care.”
Care UK’s construction partner for the new build programme will be Castleoak, a highly regarded company that works exclusively in the care sector.
Care UK has been working for over 30 years providing health and social care and already operates 87 care homes and five day (or well being) centres for older people throughout the UK. More than two thirds of residents living in its care homes have dementia.