There will be a public meeting regarding the closure of Cobgates and Surrey’s care homes on 4th December. Dr Louise Irvine will speak at the meeting.
Louise was invited by one of the residents of Cobgates to visit the care home in central Farnham last weekend.
Read below Louise’s summary of her Cobgates’ visit:
“Please help us save our home. We don’t want it to close,” said Margaret Bennett, a 98-year-old resident of Cobgates care home in Farnham. Cobgates is threatened with closure along with 5 other care homes in Surrey that are owned and run by Surrey County Council.
Margaret had invited me to meet her, some fellow residents and relatives in their home to find out more about where they live and why the residents want to keep Cobgates open. This is what they told me:
“I don’t want to leave. At 98 years old, it’s cruel to ask me to leave. The staff are wonderful and will do anything for us. This is a place where there is love. It’s great to be in a home in the middle of town. We are part of the community here. It’s ridiculous to say it’s not fit for purpose.
Lillian, aged 82, said that Cobgates gives her valued independence as she is free to mingle with people or keep her own company as she wishes and she can go out to the shops herself as it is so central.
Staff are wonderful and give great care. I could not ask for better care. I feel at home. This is my home. My friends here are like my family. If I have to move, I’ll be treated like an outsider. I’m worried about having to make new friends. There are always cliques and it will be hard to fit in. I should not have to do that at my age.
This is home from home. We are well looked after. The staff are magic. I love it here. I’d hate to leave. I want to be with my friends. I want to stay with Lillian but if we are moved we will be separated.
Peter said Cobgates is the best out of the three care homes he has lived in.
Douglas Dick, whose wife died recently and who was in the dementia wing, talked of the wonderful care she had had there. He said that SCC’s consultation was a charade. It was full of untruths, for example that the home is underused when in fact it has been deliberately under-filled on the instruction of SCC. He feels plans to close the home started 2 years ago when SCC closed 10 of Cobgates’ 50 rooms and stopped it accepting new residents, despite people wanting to move in there. Douglas pointed out that we are living longer and the need for care homes is rising, not diminishing. Last year many elderly people who were flooded out of their homes had respite care at Cobgates. These stays were not counted in the usage statistics. If Cobgates closes, a vital community resource will be lost.
Surrey County Council’s stated reason is that the homes are not fit for purpose for modern needs and indeed one councillor says she wouldn’t put her mother there. But that’s not what residents and family members say. Family members have done point-by-point rebuttals of the main arguments. It is clear that the home needs some refurbishment but they challenge the argument that this would cost millions so there is no other option for the council but to demolish the home and sell off the site.
We were shown the rooms and lounges – spacious with lots of natural light looking onto the garden, with open areas with comfy sofas where people could sit and mix with others if they felt like it. The noticeboard was packed full of daily activities, with knit and natter, sparkly cocktails and dominoes among some of the favorites. There were some issues with some of the bathrooms not being big enough for some hoists, and with the lift being too small at times, but all these would be remediable with some refurbishment said Margaret’s son, Bruce, and Douglas. We visited the dementia wings where everything is designed around the special needs of people with dementia.
Residents said they don’t need things like en suite bathrooms – that’s not what matters to them. What matters is the quality of care they receive and the important relationships they have formed with other residents and with the staff. One member of staff said there was a strong person centred culture in the home and a skilled and loyal staff, most of whom had been working in Cobgates for years. I spoke to an agency care worker who had worked in many homes in and outside London and said that Cobgates was the very best with a wonderful staff team and strong caring culture.
Cobgates’ location is another positive factor. It is in the middle of Farnham. (Cynics would also point out its in a prime location for developers). It is easy for family to take residents out for trips to local shops and services and indeed Lillian goes out on her own to shops – something she could not do if she lived in the middle of the countryside. Elderly relatives who don’t drive can easily visit – something they would struggle with if they had to travel further afield on the inadequate local bus network.
The threat of closure is causing anxiety. Where shall we go? Shall we find a place with staff as warm and caring as Cobgates? Will we be separated from our friends? Will we end up somewhere isolated that family can’t visit easily?
I read a letter from another family member who pointed out that no health risk assessment of the proposal had been done by SCC, yet we know from previous home closures that there are risks to the physical and mental health of elderly people facing such disruption and uncertainty. Something special exists in Cobgates and it would be destroyed if the home closed.
Thus Cobgates rather than being seen as a problem that needs to be demolished should be seen as the very opposite. A positive model of a home – not just because of its location in the heart of a community, but also because of its very strong and caring person centered ethos. We should be learning from Cobgates as an example of best practice in elderly residential care and we should support it to stay open. Residents have asked for wider community support to help keep their home open.
They want their voices to be heard and to be treated as individuals with rights – the right to choose to stay in the home they love. No one reading this would stand for it if someone forced that on you. Why is it any less outrageous that it be done to the residents of Cobgates? Are their rights any less just because they are old? They and their relatives want to fight this proposal. For the people of Farnham generally it is worth fighting to save this home as it is a valuable community asset that anyone in the community may one day need for themselves or a family member. Let’s all work together to save Cobgates.
There is an official consultation until 12 December at www.surreysays.co.uk/asc-commissioning/future-of-surrey-county-council-in-house-homes
and a public meeting on 4th December 7.00pm to 9.00pm at Brambleton Hall, Talbot Road, Farnham GU9 8RR