County council looking to build new care home in Ely as other options to deal with rising need in Cambridgeshire being considered

A site next to the Princess of Wales hospital at Ely is being considered by the county council for a

A site next to the Princess of Wales hospital at Ely is being considered by the county council for a new care home. Picture; ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

A new care home for the elderly which could partially resolve the rising demand in East Cambridgeshire could be built in Ely.

The county council is working with Palace Green Homes - the property offshoot of East Cambs District Council - and the Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust to "explore a potential site".

The commercial and investment committee was told the home could be built on or adjacent to the Princess of Wales Hospital site.

Committee chairman Josh Schumann explained that it was just one part of ongoing work to help solve the problems in East Cambridgeshire.

Last year, when a site at Slade Farm, Burwell was put forward on council owned land for a 80-bed home, it was revealed that the need in East Cambridgeshire "is greatest".

Two years ago the council began a review of care home provision and identified a shortfall "of 150 quality, affordable beds which could be directly commissioned by the council; as demand increases, this position will worsen if no action is taken."

Although the Burwell site remains an option, Cllr Schumann said the council was also looking at other ways to deliver care needed for the elderly.

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"We originally presumed building our own care homes was a panacea to to our problems, but probably not," he said. "There are other tools in our armoury and we have to focus on where we can get the beds delivered from."

In 2018-2019, the county council spent £51m on residential/nursing care, of which £10.7m was spent on block beds (contracted beds retained solely for the council's use).

The remaining £40.8m was on spot beds (individually purchased placements).

There were currently around 1,400 people living in residential care, and the number of placements had been relatively static until recently when there had been an increase.

His committee was told: "In terms of the market, people are living longer, but having more complex needs when they reach that stage of their life, and these factors are driving up costs."

Officers concluded that "going forward the current type of care provision was not seen to be sustainable".

The council is working on alternative methods to deliver care for the elderly and have identified four options that include finding ways of reducing the numbers requiring care in the first place.

Cambridgeshire now has an older people's accommodation strategy to " secure sustainable, affordable and quality bed-based provision" for the county council.

It comes with recognition, says the council, that market prices have increased "due to a combined range of factors".

The committee was told: "Providers have experienced a number of increasing cost drivers in recent years stemming from recruitment challenges, changes to the national living wage, pension contributions, regulatory requirements and increases in the cost of goods and services.

"At the same time, local authorities have sought to maintain affordable fee levels."

It is not all doom and gloom, however, for of the 150 beds identified as being needed in 2017, the council has secured extra through block bed booking and in Huntingdon - another area with significant need - a contract for 48 beds has been agreed.

The committee was also told ofa the development of a "care-suite model" which is a tenancy-based alternative to residential and nursing care, based on learning from other local authorities.

"Care suites tend to offer larger rooms than traditional nursing homes and afford individuals greater legal rights over their accommodation than traditional residential/nursing care home models," said the report to councillor.

"They also provide a sustainable delivery solution to shortages in quality, affordable bed based care provision."

A review of extra care housing has also begun to assess its potential to maintain tenants with more complex needs.

"This will allow more old people to choose to remain in their home environment for longer as their needs increase, rather than necessitating a move into residential care," notes the report.

Will Patten, service director, people and communities, for the county council, said: "There is increasing acknowledgment that the sustainability of traditional models of residential and nursing care is becoming increasingly challenging."

His job, as he admits, is to help secure those alternatives.