May 17 2011 By James Cracknell
blenheim care home
A CARE home in West Ruislip faces an uncertain future as it stands directly in the path of the proposed high-speed rail line.
Blenheim Care Centre in Ickenham Road is home to 64 elderly residents and specialises in care for those suffering from Dementia, Alzheimer's, Cerebral Palsy and Parkinson's.
In its last inspection, it was rated 'good' by the Care Quality Commission. But in the plans for High Speed Two (HS2) unveiled last year, the home was placed in the direct path of a new 250mph railway line to Birmingham.
Owner Southern Cross is currently participating in a public consultation on the plans but if they do go ahead, it is likely to face a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) and it's residents would need to be rehoused.
Wendy McDonough, area manager, said: "We received information from the Department of Transport about the potential new rail line at the end of last year and subsequently have been invited to participate in a consultation.
"The future location of the home will be dependent on the outcome of the consultation, but our main priority is always the health and well-being of our residents and we will do everything we can to minimise any disruption that may be potentially caused."
As if this weren't enough, Southern Cross is facing severe financial difficulties and has called for help from the government.
Since the UK's biggest care home provider was floated on the stock exchange in 2006 under the ownership of a US equity firm, many of its 750 properties were sold and leased back to fund an expansion.
But it has been left with a rent bill of £250million that it is struggling to keep up with as occupancy rates fall.
Among its 31 properties in London are Cedar House Nursing Home in High Street, Harefield, Ashwood Care Centre, Derwent Drive, and Aston House, Angel Lane, both in Hayes.
Regional director Mark Cash said: "Fewer people are being placed in our homes by local authorities, many of whom are seeking to reduce the fee levels they pay.
"Southern Cross is focussed on improving our operational effectiveness and accelerating negotiations with landlords to seek reductions in our rent bill.
"We are taking decisive action to ensure our business remains sustainable. We are also urging government, landlords and commissioners to work co-operatively in supporting us."
Shaun Graham, a senior organiser from GMB, which represents many Southern Cross employees, said: "This is yet another case of where the private sector has already made huge profits from the public funds and expects the taxpayer to pay to clear up the mess now that it is all going wrong."
But even if Southern Cross' financial problems can be solved, the future of Blenheim Care Centre looks perilous at best while the spectre of HS2 looms large.