£8.5 Million Needed To Fund Vital Repairs At Sue Ryder Home In Ely

THE Sue Ryder Care Centre in Ely is facing the prospect of closure after it was announced this week that the economic downturn has left it short of the vital funds needed to upgrade the building.

The centre, based at The Old Palace opposite Ely Cathedral, has been running at a deficit of almost £250,000 in the last year and needs a staggering £8.5 million to fund crucial improvement works required by the Government in time for 2011.

The charity has insisted, however, that funds simply aren’t available for any of the necessary improvements to be made at the Old Palace, rendering it unsuitable for use as a care home under the incoming Government guidelines.

Around 40 severely disabled residents, including those with debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and cancer will now face an uncertain few months while the charity embarks on a period of consultation with staff over how the centre could be saved from closure.

Paul Woodward, chief executive of Sue Ryder, said: “The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which regulates health and social care providers, considers that The Old Palace is not suitable for use as a Care Centre without major work to bring it into compliance with the standards set by the Commission.

“A number of possibilities for addressing the problems with the building have been investigated, but none have resulted in a suitable alternative and in each case significant cost would be involved.

“We have also considered the option of building a new care centre but a new build would require substantial capital. The current economic downturn also significantly impacts fundraising efforts in the region and indications are that we would not be able to achieve the level of fundraised income that would be required and this is unlikely to improve.

“A formal consultation period commences with this announcement between Sue Ryder Care, its residents and staff. Throughout this consultation the residents remain our primary focus and I know that the dedicated team will continue to deliver the very highest level of care at The Old Palace.”

The Old Palace, which is leased by the charity from Church Commissioners, first opened its doors to patients in 1986 but in recent years the make-up of the 14th century listed building has made it difficult to house residents, with numbers reduced from 45 to 38 in the last year alone.

The charity has explored several possibilities to try and secure the future of the centre including joining together with local NHS services, but so far all options have proved too costly for the charity, which has recorded losses of more than £9 million in the last three years.

Should closure be considered the only viable option for the centre, the charity has confirmed that exhaustive efforts would be made to find alternative accommodation for all patients.