Home in fire hazard case likely to be relicensed

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The Independent Online
A PRIVATE nursing home compulsorily closed last year as a potential fire hazard, and where the elderly patients were not properly supervised, is likely to be relicensed under the same ownership.

Whitehanger Nursing Home near Haslemere, on the Surrey-West Sussex border, was closed in July 1991 by Chichester Area Health Authority following a report in the Independent. It was the largest closure under last-resort emergency legal procedures.

Three of the 47 patients died after the hurried move to other nursing homes and hospitals, and several families of patients complained to Virginia Bottomley, the constituency MP and Secretary of State for Health.

But Cloisters Healthcare Ltd applied this summer to reopen the home under a different name, and officials have apparently approved the application in principle. They are passing their decision to Peter Catchpole, the chief executive, this month.

Such is the sensitivity of the case that he will take the unusual step of consulting other members of the health authority first. At the time the health authority listed its reasons for closing Whitehanger, including inadequate staffing, patients being given the wrong drugs and being improperly fed, lack of cleanliness and unsafe wiring.

Cloisters Healthcare operates from the office of Vipin Gudka Insurance Services in Wembley High Road, north-west London. Mr Gudka's secretary said yesterday that he was out of the country until next week. No one else could comment.

After the closure, Cloisters said that it had been 'hasty and unjustified'. There had always been sufficient qualified staff and since Cloisters had taken over Whitehanger in 1989 it had managed it 'to the satisfaction of the . . . health authority'.