Scrutiny row over Keynsham care home’s future

ANY decision to shut a troubled council-run care home in Keynsham must be made publicly and not “behind closed doors,” councillors have insisted.

Charlton House was taken over by Bath and North East Somerset Council in 2020, and a Care Quality Commission report in 2022 rated the home “inadequate.”

It found that one person had been left sitting in urine overnight, another had an “unexplained bruise” to their chest, and staff did not call for medical assistance for seven hours after one person had suffered a stroke. The home has since been upgraded to “requires improvement.”

The council recently ran a consultation (which ended on December 18) on proposals to close the care home, but it has faced accusations of a “lack of transparency” from one of its scrutiny panels.

Council cabinet member for adult services, Alison Born, had not told councillors on the children, adults, health and wellbeing scrutiny panel about proposals to close the care home at its October meeting, despite being asked for an update by Keynsham North councillor Alex Beaumont.

Appearing again before the panel on December 11, Ms Born faced calls for any decision on closing the care home to be made in public by the council cabinet rather than by herself as a single-member decision, as is currently planned.

Council officers said they had been advised that a single-member decision was appropriate, but Mr Beaumont warned it would mean the decision being made “behind closed doors.”

Councillor Joanna Wright said: “Because this issue has caused so much concern among so many residents, I do think this issue should be called to cabinet as a decision, not as a single-member decision, because there is a lack of transparency.”

Ms Born defended her precious appearance before the committee.

She said: “It was advertised that there was going to be a consultation process. It was included in the report that there was going to be a consultation process. I mentioned in my verbal introduction that there was going to be a consultation process.

“But the consultation wasn’t yet in the public domain and the last thing we wanted was for the residents, the relatives of the residents who were in the homes, and staff who worked in them, to hear about something that had been discussed in the public domain in the scrutiny panel before they were fully aware of it.”

Ms Wright said the panel could have heard her response in a closed session, but council officers said they had been told this was not possible. Councillor Paul Crossley said: “That’s simply not true.”

Councillors on the panel voted unanimously to recommend that any decision on the future of Charlton House should be taken by the council cabinet in a public meeting. Ms Born said she would take the issue forward and take advice on it.

If the care home is closed down, it would be re-used by the council for “another purpose that meets our priorities,” Ms Born said.

The care home’s 10 residents would be offered support to find new accommodation while staff would mostly move to other council-run care homes such as Combe Lea in Midsomer Norton and Cleeve Court in Bath.

It is not the first time the scrutiny panel has clashed with Ms Born over Charlton House.

At a meeting of the scrutiny panel in January, where Ms Born had delivered an apology for the state of the home, the scrutiny panel’s then chair Vic Pritchard — who had previously called for Ms Born and council leader Kevin Guy to resign over the scandal — said that reports of what had happened in the care home “amounts in my mind to torture.”

John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporting Service