Families in shock at news of Hook Heath care home closure

WHEN the bombshell was dropped that residents of a Hook Heath care home must vacate the premises before Christmas, their families were utterly distraught.

Happily settled in the tranquil and well-run environment of Woodbank – and oblivious to what lay ahead – the traumatic news that the elderly people in care are to leave the home by November 30 was announced
to relatives at a meeting on September 11.

HOMELESS – Joan Bowkett, resident at Woodbank Residential Care

HOMELESS – Joan Bowkett, resident at Woodbank Residential Care

Families believing their loved ones would be living out their twilight years there have been given only two-and-a-half months to try to find them a suitable alternative.

The premises are set for demolition at ‘some point’ but no plans for a new development have been finalised or submitted.

It leaves those affected asking why such urgency over residents’ eviction.

Not only will 35 residents lose their home, they will also have to say goodbye to the friends they have made over the years just before the festive period.

Not to mention the team of 35 loyal staff they have grown to know and trust, who are to lose their jobs.

When a deeply distressed Sophie Wilkinson contacted the News & Mail, she said: “My 95-year-old grandma, along with all the other residents’ families, have been given short notice to vacate Woodbank. They have been advised to find alternative accommodation.”

Sophie’s mum, Penny Wilkinson, added: “My mother, Joan Bowkett, has been a resident at Woodbank for almost four years. She has been very well looked after and we envisaged her ending her life there.

“So you can imagine how shocked I was to be told that the home will be closing so soon.

“We want to know why the staff and residents could not at least have had Christmas at Woodbank.”

The families were told the home is to be demolished and rebuilt by September 2015 when, they said, the residents would be welcome to return.

But as Penny, a nurse who lives in Bisley, pointed out: “Bearing in mind that most people there are in their 90s – one resident is 104 – that prospect is highly unlikely.

“Besides, now they are having to face an unexpected and very traumatic experience of moving home, I doubt if any relatives will want to put them through yet another move.

“Also, regional manager Ian Johnston was very evasive as to the timescale.

“Building plans are not completed and he admitted that permission for the new place had not yet been granted.

“All the staff are being made redundant too, which is upsetting as they are such a great team under manager Sue Haines.

“Information packs on other homes were available but some were miles away.

“There are about 35 residents whose relatives are searching for an alternative in the area but there are not enough vacancies.”

Woodbank is owned by the charity Methodists Housing Association, under a church, not for profit, remit.

Sophie added: “My main concern is that the majority of residents are over 85, very frail, with many suffering additional health problems like dementia, and lack of mobility. Most of their relatives believed that Woodbank would be the place their loved ones would spend their final days…now they are going to be disrupted and moved, which will be so traumatic for all concerned.

“Woodbank is an amazing place, the carers are wonderful and they treat all residents with dignity and respect. I think everyone is so dumbfounded, no one is really asking whether this is right or fair.

“The owners need to answer questions. Ideally, more notice, at least until after Christmas would be reasonable.”

From a safety point of view, there’s no urgency. When inspected by the Care Quality Commission in April this year, there were zero complaints, every standard was met and the residents couldn’t find fault. So why the big rebuild?

MHA stated: “The home’s age and facilities now mean that it is increasingly difficult to attract residents.

“The building features small rooms, many without ensuites, and narrow corridors unsuitable for the number of residents requiring wheelchairs or walking frames.

“Attempts to improve Woodbank have been exhausted and the charity has decided to build a new, assisted living scheme.

“We met with relatives to advise them that we aim to close Woodbank on November 30 so we can apply for planning.

“MHA has offered reassurance that no one will be forced to move out on November 30 if they have not finalised alternative accommodation.”

A councillor on the council’s planning committee confirmed that premises do not need to be vacated when putting in an application.

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