Community worries Hallgarth Care Home closure could cause “stress and isolation”


The closure of Hallgarth Care Home in August has left local residents worried for the future and accessibility of elderly care provision in Durham City.

Durham County Council has refused a subsequent planning application to convert the site into student accommodation, but stipulated that the property “is not needed to be used as a care home”.

Palatinate has spoken to affected Durham residents who reflected concerns about a shortage of care provision in Durham City and expressed worries that elderly relatives and friends will face “isolation” by being forced to move into care homes outside of Durham.

Local resident Angela Webb, whose mother was a resident there for over three years until she passed away ten years ago, told Palatinate that “a lot of people are very sad to see Hallgarth Care Home close (…) the place was well run and the staff were like family.”

However, when her brother suffered a stroke around ten months ago, before the closure of the Care Home, he was discharged from hospital too early and “a care home place could not be found in Durham”. He was told by a stroke team that he needed rehabilitation therapy physio in a care home for a few weeks, but the team were unable to find a space in Durham City, Durham County or in Gateshead. 

The City of Durham Parish Council objected to the initial proposal for the site’s repurposing into student accommodation in part on the grounds that the closure will aggravate pressure already being put on care home bed availability due to an aging population. 

The Parish Council referenced their Durham City Neighbourhood Plan, which predicts that there will be over 500 more people over the age of 75 in the area by 2035. The plan calculates that an extra 50 beds in Durham City care homes and a further 100 in the wider area will be needed to accommodate future care demands. The closure of Hallgarth Care Home will mean the removal of 60 care home beds in the area.

The City of Durham Parish Council stressed in their public letter to the County Council’s senior planning officer George Spurgeon that, “to meet this need, it will be necessary either to expand existing care homes or to build new ones, not reduce the level of provision”.

“In County Durham we currently have around 86 per cent occupancy in care homes, meaning there are over 200 beds available.”

In a statement to Palatinate, Neil Jarvis, Durham County Council’s deputy director of integrated commissioning, said: “For every individual, we work closely with partners, care providers, the person and their family to ensure they receive a service which best meets their needs.  This may be care provided in their own home or in a care home as close to their local area as possible.

“In County Durham we currently have around 86 per cent occupancy in care homes, meaning there are over 200 beds available. More locally in the Durham district, the occupancy figure is slightly lower at around 84 per cent, with an estimated 97 care home beds available. At the time of its closure, Hallgarth Care Home was significantly under-capacity and all residents and staff were successfully relocated with little to no impact on the wider availability of beds.

The Durham City area has two other care homes, Melbury Court and St. Margaret’s Care Home, with maximum capacities of 87 and 59 beds respectively, but Palatinate did not receive a response to a request to their parent company HC-One to ascertain the availability of beds in either home. HC-One did provide a comment, stating: “We are proud to serve the people of Durham City with compassionate, kind care. The majority of our Residents are publicly funded, and we work closely with our Local Authority and NHS partners to ensure that people across the city can receive high quality care that meets their needs.”

The closure of Hallgarth Care Home has already had a knock-on effect for those searching for care home beds. From the planning application portal for the Care Home’s conversion into student accommodation, a Durham resident shares the story of her “elderly aunt [who] lives in Hallgarth Street and needed care provision in a nursing home recently. Hallgarth Care Home is closed and she has been passed from one hospital to another awaiting a bed in residential care.” The resident explains that “this delay has caused her upset and confusion.” 

This resident echoed complaints that a shortage of care home beds in Durham City forces elderly people to find a bed far away from home, friends and relatives. All the “close relatives and friends” of her aunt’s will now be forced “to travel to visit using at least 2 buses into Durham and 2 to wherever” she will be placed. 

Palatinate spoke to Carole Scott, who had a close relative staying in Hallgarth Care Home for 23 weeks before their death in February 2023. She praised the “tremendous (…) personal level of care” available there. The Home was a short walk from where she lived and the proximity allowed for her to visit daily. She told Palatinate that she is “very angry” that the site will no longer be used as a care home because it will add pressure to the lack of care home provision in the City. She warned that if elderly individuals are forced to move into care homes “miles away” then visits to them from family and friends will “drop off”. 

“This delay has caused her upset and confusion”

Another Durham resident emphasised Hallgarth Care Home’s importance as a “local nursing home” that was “ideal for local people to move into, allowing partners and family to visit easily and enabling residents to remain within their local community.” A further objection to the planning application on the online portal by an Elvet resident noted that elderly residents who are forced to move away from their local area to stay in a care home would face “stress and isolation at the end of their lives”.

The Whinney Hill Community Group reacted to the closure by describing the Care Home as an “important community asset… [that] makes a valuable contribution to the fabric of our local community and consequently it should not be seen as something to be given up”.  In their assessment, they said that Durham “does not have enough care homes, social housing, affordable family homes, properties designed for elderly residents to live independent lives within their community”. They claimed that “all of these groups are in need of support and appropriate accommodation which is seriously lacking within the City Centre”. 

Hallgarth Care Home’s operating company commented to Palatinate: “After Four Seasons Health Care made the difficult decision to close the home, we worked closely with Durham County Council’s Social Services team and family members to ensure suitable alternative care arrangements were made for the seven residents remaining in the home when it closed in August. 

Durham County Council rejected an application to turn the site into student accommodation on the grounds that it would “further unbalance the area”

“We remain grateful to our hard working team for caring for the residents at the home and made alternative positions available to affected members of staff.”

The City of Durham Trust, a registered charity that scrutinises planning applications in Durham, and Mary Kelly Foy, Member of Parliament for the City of Durham, joined Whinney Hill Community Group and the City of Durham Parish Council in objecting to the replacement of Hallgarth Care Home with new purpose-built student accommodation. Durham County Council rejected the planning application on the grounds that more student accommodation would “further unbalance the area and [would] have a detrimental impact upon community cohesion and would further adversely affect the amenity of existing residents within the local area from increased noise and disturbance”.

In a statement to Palatinate, Neil Jarvis, Durham County Council’s deputy director of integrated commissioning, said: “We understand that people want to access care close to home and we are confident that we retain a suitable choice of care homes across the county, including in Durham. Unfortunately, as in the case in many areas of the UK, this does not always mean that a suitable home is situated within the immediate vicinity of all the people living in an area. In some circumstances, an individual may also have specific specialist needs which cannot be met by local care homes meaning a placement is sourced from a wider area. 

“However, as well as longer-term care beds we also have availability for Intermediate Care short term rehabilitation beds which are able to meet the needs of the vast majority of people transferred from hospital. As a result, we can confirm we are not experiencing significant discharge delays.”


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