To ask the Secretary of State for Health with responsibility
(1) with reference to comments made by the Minister for care services on Radio 4's “Today” Programme, 6 December 2011, on Southern Cross, what assurance process his Department has undertaken on the financial viability of Four Seasons Healthcare; and if he will publish the results of any such assurance process;
(2) what assurance his Department has received that Four Seasons Healthcare will seek to restructure its finances following its takeover of Southern Cross care homes; and when any such restructuring will be completed;
(3) how many times (a) Ministers and (b) officials of his Department have met senior management of Four Seasons Healthcare in the last 12 months.
The chairman and chief executive of Four Seasons Healthcare have met senior officials from the Department to explain the company's financial position twice in the last 12 months. We will continue to keep in close touch with the company. There have been no meetings between the company and Ministers to discuss this issue.
The company has explained its trading position and its plans to deal with its debt restructuring. It has stressed that its business model is very different from that of Southern Cross Healthcare. Unlike Southern Cross, it owns the majority of its homes. It also reports that it is operating profitably and is better able to cope with fluctuations in the market.
Four Seasons' historic debt matures in September 2012. The process to restructure the debt has begun and will be completed before the maturity date. The information provided by the company is commercially sensitive and it would not be appropriate to publish it.
At present, the Department does not have concerns about Four Seasons’ financial position. However, we are keeping the situation under review.
It is for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to register providers of adult social care services, including care homes. The registration process for care providers with the CQC requires that they declare their organisation takes all reasonable steps to remain financially viable. Where the CQC has concerns regarding a declaration, it will ask further questions to determine whether the provider is compliant with Regulation 13 of the CQC (Registration) Regulations 2009, which requires providers to ensure the “financial viability” of their enterprise, before deciding whether to register them.