Growing confidence over future of Priory Court home in Stamford

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THE future of a nursing and care home in Stamford is looking brighter this week despite the collapse of the company which operates it.

THE future of a nursing and care home in Stamford is looking brighter this week despite the collapse of the company which operates it.

Southern Cross, which runs the Priory Court complex in Priory Road, has recorded a loss of £311m and suspended dealings in its shares.

But Priory Court is continuing to operate as usual and residents and their relatives are being told it is highly unlikely that the home will close or reduce its services.

It has already received calls from other care home operators interested in taking it over.

Southern Cross runs 752 homes across the country and says it will transfer all operations to the landlords of the premises.

The landlords of 250 homes – existing care home firms – have said they will take over the running, probably by October.

But what happens to the other homes has not yet been finalised.

Priory Court is not among the 250 homes and the company that owns it says no decision has been made about which care operator is going to be providing services there.

There are about 50 residents at Priory Court and 60 workers.

The Government has pledged that no resident of the Southern Cross homes will be made homeless, but it is unclear what will happen to staff.

Investigations carried out by the Mercury have revealed that Burghley House Preservation Trust owns the land on which Priory Court stands. It has leased it and refuses to say to whom.

Land Registry records show Priory Court is leased under a 97-year agreement signed in 1999 with NHP Securities No 5, of 47 Esplanade, St Helier, Jersey. This company is based at the same address as property investment group, NHP, in Liberty House, Regent Street, London. Lincolnshire County Council has confirmed NHP is the landlord at Priory Court.

Director of NHP Jeremy Jensen said the day-to-day operation of the 249 homes owned by the company would not change.

He said: “I can confirm that our position remains the same, namely that our work with Southern Cross continues to make good progress. Our commitment to continuity of care remains our top priority. We continue to finalise our plans and further announcements will be made in due course.”

Southern Cross says it would cease to operate homes at the end of the restructuring period in the autumn. Chairman Christopher Fisher said: “We are now able to begin clarifying the arrangements for the future operation of our homes.

“The process of change on which we are now embarking involves considerable effort on the part of our management and staff and their commitment and loyalty is much appreciated.

“We anticipate that the period of uncertainty which we have been experiencing will now draw to a close.”

The company had announced that 3,000 redundancies would be made across the country but talks have been held with the GMB union and the union says the redundancy plans are on hold.

The company had said all staff would be transferred on their current contracts.

GMB spokesman for the East Midlands Martin McGinley said: “We are working and will continue to work with Southern Cross through this painful process and worrying time for everybody concerned.”

The county council is also holding talks with NHP.

Adult social care contracts officer Edward Baker said: “We are keeping a very close eye on the Southern Cross situation on behalf of our 96 county-wide residents in these homes.

“We’ll be speaking with NHP, the landlords at Priory Court, and will be reviewing all residents as a precaution.

“However, we advise them and their families not to be unduly concerned at this time as we understand the homes are not going to close in the short term, if at all.

“Transferring residents elsewhere is the last resort and we are hopeful that the homes can be taken on by alternative management or be restructured.

“Southern Cross will confirm who will be taking over the running of the homes in August and the process of taking them over should be completed by September/October.

“We’ll do everything we can to help this be seamless and not see any disruption to residents’ routines, including, we understand, the existing staff being transferred over to the new owners.”

The owner of the Red House care home in Emylns Street, Stamford, Dinesh Patel says he is interested in taking over Priory Court and has been making inquiries.

Mr Patel said: “If the terms are right we would take over Priory Court and run it the way we run Red House.”

Phil Barton, the manager of Priory Court was unable to comment directly to the Mercury and referred us to the Southern Cross press office.

However he said he was always happy to speak to residents and their relatives about the situation.

Chief executive of Burghley House Preservation Trust David Pennell said: “We are keeping a watching brief on what is happening at the site.”