Southern Cross to keep running most homes

Struggling British care provider Southern Cross expects to retain control of most of its homes and their residents need not worry about being abandoned, Chairman Christopher Fisher said today.

The plight of the company has prompted concerns about continuing care for the company's 31,000 residents, many of them vulnerable, elderly people.

"They do not need to worry about where they will be next year. These homes will continue to operate and we expect Southern Cross to continue to be responsible for the critical mass of the homes going forward," Fisher told BBC Radio 4.

"Their care will indeed be sustained through this period," Fisher added.

The Financial Times reported last week that Southern Cross planned to give up control of 132 of its 750 care homes, including 47 that would be handed back by the end of September as part of a rescue package.

"In respect of some of our homes, some of our landlords who are themselves operators may well wish to take back the effective operation of some of those homes," Fisher said.

"We are in principle agreed to any landlord who wants to take back the operation of their homes, to that being facilitated," he added.

Southern Cross has been hit by a combination of falling admissions, pressure on fees paid by cash-strapped authorities and rising rents for its properties.

The group sold its properties to help fund expansion and leased them back under contracts that ratchet up rents by 2.5 percent a year.

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