Councillors pursue care home closure despite legal challenge

Councillors look set to press on with the controversial closure of a Hull care home despite a last-minute legal challenge. Rokeby House has been the centre of a two-year battle between Hull Council and relatives of the 11 elderly residents still there.

The families have doggedly fought the closure with a series of legal challenges, but the Lib Dem administration has remained determined to close the home, which was damaged in the floods of 2007.

For the last two years the residents have lived upstairs while the fight continues.

The solicitor acting for the relatives, Yvonne Hossack, has applied again for a judicial review based on new assessments by Prof Cornelius Katona, a consultant psychiatrist, which conclude “that on balance of probabilities some will die prematurely despite best efforts at preparing them for a move.”

An application for a High Court hearing was heard in June, but was adjourned to September to allow the council to make its own assessments.

But at a meeting next Thursday, councillors will be asked to confirm the home’s closure on the back of their own medical expert’s report.

June White, the daughter of 89-year-old Rokeby resident and former city councillor Hilda Milsom, said her mother and fellow resident Dunkirk veteran Harry Glentworth, were “stressed and anxious” about what was happening.

She said: “When we went to Leeds the Judge ordered more medical reports to be put before the Cabinet.

“But it won’t make a blind bit of difference because they are nine Liberal Democrat councillors and they aren’t going to change their views, as it’s more than their seats are worth in my opinion and they won’t go against the leader Carl Minns.”

Mrs White said she and her mother had attended last Thursday’s full council but a motion by Labour councillor Mary Glew was “deliberately” talked out of time.

She said: “My mother’s name Hilda means battle maiden and she’s been the figurehead for this campaign.

“Even though she is in a residential home she is still battling and Harry – you will never get him to sway his opinion.”

Last Saturday the residents were asssessed by the council’s independent expert, consultant psychiatrist Dr Sean Lennon, who’s been asked specifically to address the issue of whether closing the home would result “in an unacceptably high risk to the life or health of the residents.”

He concluded there was a risk in cases where people were depressed, or suffered cognitive impairment or who had had a previous stress-related breakdown.

But he said the impact of the move could be mitigated.

A report to Cabinet says: “Dr Lennon’s conclusion is that overall on the basis of the information available he does not think that there are risks which cannot be managed if they are moved from Rokeby and that none of the risks are of an unacceptable level.”

The council accepts that residents still want the home – described by Home Secretary and Hull West Labour MP Alan Johnson as a “jewel in Hull’s social services crown” – to stay open, but adds: “However the longer the process continues the more anxious both residents and carers are feeling.”

It promises reviews at four weeks, three months and six months for residents.

The report also warns that further delay “will incur costs to the council over and above that already budgeted.”

Lib Dem cabinet member Steve Baker said: “I have looked at the reports and as long as the moves are managed I feel that it’s appropriate.”

He said the site was earmarked for extra-care faciltiies.