‘Severe pressure’ forces Scottish firm Bield to exit care home market

Carehome, by Angeline Albert


One of Scotland’s largest care home providers has decided shut down its care homes and exit the care home market because of severe financial pressures.

Bield, based in Edinburgh, has taken the ‘last resort’ option of closing 12 care homes, which cover seven local authority areas, and has blamed cuts in councils’ social care budgets for its unsustainable care home business.

Some 167 residents and 200 care workers are affected in 12 care homes based in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fife, Falkirk, Scottish Borders, South Lanarkshire and West Lothian.

Brian Logan, chief executive of Bield, said: “We have made the very difficult decision to withdraw from the residential care home market. This is a fundamental step and one which we do not take lightly, but it is in the best interests of the long-term future and sustainability of our organisation.

“The decision to make these changes to services, and in particular the withdrawal of care home services, is very much a last resort option. We have carefully considered a wide range of options to continue delivery of these services however, we have been unable to find a solution that will be viable in the longer term.”

Reliance on public sector to fund business ‘continues to be eroded’

Mr Logan said the way organisations provide services to older people has “changed significantly from the position 20-30 years ago”.

He said: “Like others in the social care sector, we are facing challenges and financial constraints meaning we constantly have to look differently at how we operate. Reliance on the public sector to fund our business continues to be eroded.

“In an environment where costs will continue to increase, often at a rate greater than inflation, where income is under severe pressure due to cuts in local authority funding and a desire to keep rents and service charges affordable, we have agreed that a longer-term solution is required to strengthen our finances.”

While withdrawing from all registered care home provision, the company intends to continue providing housing and services for older people in Scotland. Bield aims review and considerably reduce its back office costs, develop technological solutions to support older people, build new housing for older people and develop its new Bield@Home home care service.

Mr Logan said part of its new five-year vision to transform its organisation by 2022, means it must make “the biggest and hardest changes first and have these implemented within the next 12-18 months”.

‘We are aware of the serious impact’

As a result of Bield’s decision, more than 160 people, many over the age of 90, with dependent needs including 24-hour personal care and feeding assistance, will have to leave their homes, while 200 qualified registered care workers will be made compulsorily redundant. There are also fears some elderly residents may not survive a move to a new home.

Bield is currently in talks with other care providers to see if some care homes can remain open.
The chief exective said: “We are aware of the serious impact these changes will make to people who use our services, their families and our staff.

“Those impacted by the changes have been advised and in the coming weeks and months we will be holding consultation meetings to communicate the reasons for the decision and discuss what options are available to those affected – with the aim of minimising the impact as far as possible.”

’Crucial services cannot be left to the market’

John Gallacher, Scottish organiser at the trade union UNISON, said: “First minister, Nicola Sturgeon must intervene and ask how Bield Housing’s management team got themselves into this position.

“This is a disaster for families across Scotland and it questions the role of Government, integrated joint boards, NHS and local authorities. The task of making alternative arrangements will fall back on public authorities, the tax payer and individual families at a few months notice.

“This is at a time when demand for care services can only increase. As a charity, using public funds, Bield Housing must be held accountable. “First we need to protect the elderly residents and staff affected by this decision. We need urgent action by Scottish Government, COSLA and other agencies to save vital services and jobs.

“In the long term, we need to accept that such crucial services cannot be left to the market.

“We need to question whether the sector can deliver in the face of increasing demand and how local authorities, who have lost over 30,000 jobs and taken the brunt of austerity cuts, can possibly cope over the long term.”

A spokesman for the Scottish local authority body Cosla (Convention of Scottish Local Authorites) said: “Local Partnerships are considering how to ensure continuity of high quality care for residents in the different localities affected.

“COSLA has also called a meeting of the National Contingency Planning Group which includes providers, Scottish Government, Care Inspectorate, IJBs and local Government to consider any collective or national assurance and action that might be needed to manage the consequences of this decision – not least in respect of residents, their families and the workforce affected.”

The care homes affected are:

    • Woodlands – Bo’ness (Falkirk)
    • Thornton Gardens – Bonnybridge (Falkirk)
    • Grantsbank – Dunfermline (Fife)
    • Gillie Court – Dunfermline (Fife)
    • Finavon Court – Glenrothes (Fife)
    • Lochar Lodge – Pollok (Glasgow)
    • Milfield Gardens – Jedburgh (Scottish Borders)
    • Langvout Court – Biggar (South Lanarkshire)
    • St Andrews Court – Broxburn (West Lothian)
    • West Port – Linlithgow (West Lothian)
    • Haugh Street – Edinburgh
    • Craighall Gardens – Edinburgh