Mansfield care home worker fears for future

Care worker Helen Ewan delivers her speech to the GMB conference on work at Berry Hill Park under Southern Cross Healthcare
Care worker Helen Ewan delivers her speech to the GMB conference on work at Berry Hill Park under Southern Cross Healthcare

A CARE worker has blown the whistle on the human cost of a cash-strapped company’s management of a Mansfield nursing home.

Helen Ewan has been backed by colleagues and activists after she spoke out about Berry Hill Park, run by embattled Southern Cross Healthcare.

The 54-year-old used an emotional speech at a conference to warn: “I spend too much time at funerals, and don’t want to go to mass funerals, which is going to happen if Southern Cross go under.”

She also claimed things are so bad one manager was more worried about paperwork than the condition of a resident who collapsed and needed resuscitation.

Last week national firm Southern Cross announced it wants to bring in new employment contracts and cut up to 3,000 jobs as it tackles a financial crisis.

The firm is looking after around 300 local people across seven homes in and around Mansfield and Ashfield.

Bosses say no decisions have been made on closing homes and insist no residents will be left homeless or without care.

Care co-ordinator Miss Ewan, who works night shifts at Berry Hill Park, spoke at the GMB congress in Brighton last week.

Clearly nervous, the grandmother told delegates: “We used to have time to care for residents, now we have none.

“Staff are trying to be calm, they are continually being asked questions by relatives that they can’t answer, not because they don’t want to answer; they haven’t got a clue themselves.

“They are terrified that they have not got a job and are terrified about what is going to happen to the residents in homes that do shut, are moved, and we are frightened it will kill them.”

Describing one incident, she said: “I was on a shift one day when a resident collapsed and I started to give CPR while shouting for help and carrying on until the paramedics arrived.

“The manager came in, not overly concerned about residents, and all she was worried about was the paperwork.”

GMB officials filmed Helen’s speech and posted it on YouTube, where it gathered more than 1,100 hits in four days.

Commented one viewer: “Helen speaks for all care staff in Southern Cross and it’s about time senior management actually took notice of their real workers.”

Twitter and Facebook users have also been posting links to the clip.

Berry Hill Park is a purpose-built residential and nursing home on Berry Hill Lane with 66 places.

Southern Cross also owns Avalon residential nursing home in Forest Town, Stoneyford and Ashfield Court in Sutton, Churchfield in Rainworth, The Grange in Shirebrook, The Sycamores & The Poplars in Warsop, and Oaklands in Whaley Thornes.

Between them the homes have places for more than 300 people.

Nottinghamshire County Council said last week it has drawn up contingency plans in the event homes do close.

The authority’s social services department is paying for the care of 452 people in 19 Southern Cross homes across the county, out of 161 total homes it uses.

“We are confident we could find alternative homes if this was needed; there’s capacity to accommodate people,” said a council spokesman.

Southern Cross is negotiating with its banks and the landlords of its rented care homes “to ensure the continuity of care for all residents”.

The firm has been hit by cuts in fees paid by local authorities.

Said a company statement: “No residents will find themselves homeless or without care; everyone involved in the restructuring process is, and remains, committed to the continuity of quality care for all of our 31,000 residents.”

Christopher Fisher, chairman of Southern Cross, said: “Decisions on our future must be governed by a paramount concern for the welfare of our residents. We believe that for a critical mass of our landlords, supporting a restructured Southern Cross remains the most attractive option open to them, as we intend to demonstrate.”

He added: “No decision has been taken to close any of our homes.

“We recognise that the current situation and continued media speculation will have caused concern to residents in Southern Cross care homes, and their relatives, and we apologise for this.

“Our primary concern in this matter remains the welfare of the residents living in our homes.

“The financial restructuring will not affect the provision of quality care in any of our homes.”

A spokesman for the firm was unable to comment on care at Berry Hill Park or whether Ms Ewan’s speech would have an impact on her job.

Added Martin McGinley, the GMB’s lead officer for Southern Cross workers in the midlands: “We are asking the Government to intervene because no-one can lose all those staff members without it affecting the care provision.”

Sue Johnson, whose mother Doris McKaig (86) is a Berry Hill Park resident, said: “I think it’s a brilliant home personally, if it wasn’t she wouldn’t be there.

“We are only worried in that we don’t want her to have to move.”

Berry Hill’s last inspection report from the Care Quality Commission, published last July, gave the home an ‘adequate’ rating.

Southern Cross is continuing efforts to re-negotiate its rents this week, and more talks with unions are planned in the coming weeks over the changes.