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Hampshire County Council set to make decision on closing care homes Solent Mead in Lymington and Cranleigh Paddock in Lyndhurst

A DECISION to press ahead with plans to close council-run care homes in the New Forest has been slammed as “immoral and uncaring” and ignoring the area’s ageing population.

As reported in the A&T, Solent Mead in Church Lane, Lymington, which has around 35 residents, was confirmed as one of three Hampshire County Council wants to shut in a shake-up of its care plans.

Solent Mead care home
Solent Mead care home

A public consultation on the plans revealed two thirds disagreeing with Solent Mead’s closure, but a subsequent report to HCC has recommended the council push ahead with its closure, along with permanently shutting Cranleigh Paddock in Lyndhurst, which has been temporarily shut since 2021.

A decision is due to be made by the county council’s lead member for adult social care and public health, Cllr Liz Fairhurst, on 8th February.

Former Lymington GP Dr Tom McEwen told the A&T the council had a duty of care to those who could not afford the “great expense” of private care and nursing homes.

He added: “The ever-increasing requirements for care of the ageing population are being ignored if the council proceeds with this plan.

“I feel strongly that the less well-off local people who cannot afford private care homes are being let down by those employed to serve their needs now and in the future.”

The council has said it needs to “transform and expand” the future of nursing and specialist care accommodation it provides for the county’s growing older population, which includes closing Solent Mead – rated 'good’ by the Care Quality Commission – along with another two care homes in Waterlooville and Bishop’s Waltham.

Cranleigh Paddock care home
Cranleigh Paddock care home

It plans to close a further five care homes across the county by 2026, including Cranleigh Paddock.

However, HCC says it will invest £173m over the next five to six years, which includes building three new care homes in the county.

One would be in the New Forest, although the council has not confirmed where.

Results from the public consultation show 67% of the 231 respondents disagreed with the proposed closure of Solent Mead.

Linda Kemp, whose 100-year-old father had lived at the home until his death late last year, and prior to that resided at Cranleigh Paddock, said the closures would be “a huge loss to the community”.

She added: “It is extremely worrying that any Lyndhurst or Lymington residents who need a care home now or in the next few years will have nowhere to go.

“There will be no council-run homes left, and very few people can afford privately run homes.”

She added: “It is disappointing that there were so few respondents to the public consultation, but I don't think many people consider their options for when they get older and may need care.

“Possibly the only ones who responded were people it directly affects at this present time, but I doubt it would have changed the outcome anyway.”

She added: “The whole plan to close both Cranleigh Paddock and Solent Mead has been done purely for financial gain. The land at both of these prime sites is worth vast amounts for a development opportunity, which is obvious to both us and Hampshire County Council.

“They and everyone else involved in this immoral and uncaring decision, should hang their heads in shame.”

Cllr Liz Fairhurst
Cllr Liz Fairhurst

A report from HCC’s adult social care service outlined the recommendations to Cllr Fairhurst.

The report said its business case for the investment programme was not reliant on the selling of the sites proposed for closure and explained: “This means the door would be open for meaningful future engagement with all interested parties, including New Forest District Council in the case of both Cranleigh Paddock and Solent Mead, should the closure proposals be approved.

“This could also include third party interest in some form of continued care home operation, albeit it would not be possible for a new site owner to secure reregistration with CQC, without extensive modification.”

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