‘Buy-to-let’ rooms at north Antrim care home only one element of RQIA concern

Northern Ireland’s health watchdog has said the welfare of residents at a Ballymoney care home remains its main priority after it ordered the closure of the facility.

Court Care Home in Ballymoney. Google image
Court Care Home in Ballymoney. Google image

The RQIA withdrew the operator’s licence for the Court Care Home after a number of concerns raised about its financial viability – including rooms being offered as buy-to-let investments.

However, the regulator has also said that the ‘invest in rooms’ scheme was “only one element of our wider concerns” in relation to the ongoing stability of the home.

Although such a scheme is not unlawful, some have questioned whether it is appropriate for a care home operator.

The regulator has said it did not receive the “necessary assurances” that would enable the home to continue operating.

“In recent weeks, the provider has advised us that they are no longer in a position to continue to operate The Court Care Home,” a RQIA spokesman said.

“RQIA has been in regular communication with the current provider during this time, and we have concluded that they are not in a position to provide RQIA with the necessary assurances to enable continued registration.

“In these circumstances the RQIA has issued a Notice of Decision to cancel the registration of the current provider in respect of The Court Care Home.”

He added: “RQIA acknowledges this will be a particularly challenging time for all residents, families and staff at The Court Care Home.

“At all times RQIA’s focus remains on ensuring a safe and reliable service for the residents of this home.”

The home is mainly an old age and dementia facility but can provide nursing care for those with a number of other health conditions.

The Department of Health and Northern Health Trust are now working to transfer almost 30 residents to other suitable care home accommodation.

North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey has written to both the health minister and the RQIA.

The DUP representative told the BBC: “People need to have clarity that the primary focus of any healthcare setting is about the needs of the residents, not financial arrangements which are nothing to do with their place in that establishment.

“When I spoke to the health minister, he was at pains to assure me that they weren’t aware of it being employed in any other provisions in Northern Ireland, but we absolutely need to be sure.”

He added:“The onus needs to be on the Department of Health, the RQIA and us all collectively because we all have loved ones who are in provisions similar to this.”

Alan Perry of the GMB trade union, said the invest-in-rooms funding model “prioritises profit over people”.

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