Row over Wombwell care centre heats up

CAMPAIGNERS against the closure of Wombwell’s Highfield Grange have vowed to step up their campaign to keep it open.

The care home is set to close in March next year, with the potential loss of over 70 jobs.

Barnsley Council’s Cabinet members will review the future of the intermediate care centre again in December, having stated previously that the council can not afford to keep the care home going, without additional funding from NHS Barnsley.

The two bodies agreed to share costs as an interim measure, with NHSB upping its ‘hotel’ cost payments by £544,000 to match the Council’s £700,000, NHSB currently pays £650 towards clinical staff.

This week, a spokesperson for NHS Barnsley said: “NHS Barnsley is not reducing its financial contribution towards services which are jointly funded with the council. We will continue to work with Barnsley Council to provide the best possible services to local people within

the budgets available.”

Campaigning GMB branch secretary Henry Rajch said: “I have been assured by NHS Barnsley that if Highfield Grange should close, intermediate care will go to the private sector”.

This would seem to be a preferred option by the council, who are considering reducing beds from 39 to 18 at an alternative site, to be run within a lesser budget using ‘top-up placements’ within the private or ‘independent’ sector.

The Highfield Grange building could then be sold.

Mr Rajch said: “We’re very unhappy about this. People feel strongly about Highfield Grange and want to keep it open. It’s a local facility employing local people and it’s full.

“Staff have voiced their concerns that if the centre closes, people could die as a result. If they are sent home instead of in to intermediate care - and this is the last facility of its kind in Barnsley - they will not be checked constantly or have the same level of emergency support.

“We already have over 1000 signatures on the petition launched by ourselves and Unison. Now we will up the campaign and make our feelings clear.

“We would like a meeting with council leader Steve Houghton, to make a case for keeping the home where it is for the future - it has strong local links but serves patients from right across the borough”.

Along with the care Highfield Grange provides to people just out of hospital, or those who might otherwise have had to enter hospital, it houses an Age Concern daycare centre, that is a “lifeline” to many.

Martin Farran, Doncaster Council’s executive director of adults and communities, said: “A formal three month consultation with Highfield Grange staff is under way and a further report will go before cabinet in December. Members will consider options based on the resources available. Barnsley Council remains committed to provision of a joint service and funding 50 percent of the cost.”