Sunderland care homes in limbo as bosses launch financial review after Living Wage plan

Victorai Lodge Care Home, Leechmere Road, Sunderland.
Victorai Lodge Care Home, Leechmere Road, Sunderland.
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Scores of residents at Wearside nursing homes - including many suffering with dementia - face months in limbo after funding fears sparked a financial review at a national care operator.

Four Seasons Health Care, which operates care homes across Sunderland and East Durham, has launched a wide-ranging review of its operations as it faces up to meeting a huge costs bill due to plans to boost the national living wage next year.

If we are not properly funded we will see a reduction in care providers.

Martin Green, Care England

Bosses at Four Seasons, which looks after 20,000 patients at 450 nursing homes across the country, have already voiced fears over the impact of a national living wage on its services.

They joined Bupa UK, HC-One, Care UK and Barchester, in penning a letter to Chancellor George Osborne warning the extra costs could lead to home closures.

In his latest budget, Chancellor George Osborne announced firms will be required to pay a minimum of £9 an hour by 2020, with the first increase from £6.50 to £7.20 to be introduced in April.

Care homes are calling for funding support from the Government to help them meet the costs of mass wage increases.

Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, a body representing the care industry, also wrote to Mr Osborne about the need for extra funding.

He said: “If we are not properly funded we will see a reduction in care providers.”

Mr Osborne has agreed to consider their concerns with a review on care sector spending to be held in November.

Just 85 per cent of rooms at Four Seasons care homes are currently occupied - while the firm is also trying to get to grips with a £500m debt.

A spokesman for Four Seasons Health Care declined to comment.

Four Seasons Health Care operates Maple Lodge and Victoria Lodge care homes in Sunderland, as well as Albany Care Home in Washington, Regents View, The Laurels and Elizabeth Flemming care homes, all in Hetton-le-Hole, as well as Bannatyne Lodge in Peterlee and The Mews Care Home, in Houghton.