Mary Feilding Guild: Warning of severe health impact on elderly residents

Resident Dr Jean Scott, 88, read a statement in front of her fellow residents

Resident Dr Jean Scott, 88, outside the care home - Credit: Polly Hancock

Elderly care experts have made grave warnings over the impact of the sudden closure of Mary Feilding Guild on residents’ physical and mental health.  

Sixteen pensioners have been told they must leave the nursing home by the end of May, after the charitable trust sold the site to a private company, Highgate Care, on March 4. 

An old age psychiatrist from Crouch End feared the shock of moving residents from the Highgate care home, who are aged between 85 and 104, could be a serious health risk.  

A Hampstead physiotherapist said the move would “destabilise” those living at Mary Feilding Guild and “undoubtedly” take a “major” toll on their wellbeing.  

Meanwhile the families of residents say they feel “crushed”, as they desperately search for a new home for their loved ones, during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Residents were given less than three months notice to leave

Residents were given less than three months notice to leave - Credit: Polly Hancock

Therese Shaw, a consultant old age psychiatrist of 22 years, who works for the Barnet, Enfield & Haringey mental health trust, told the Ham&High: “This is actually inhumane and it's going to increase the risk of depression and anxiety for residents. 

“I’ve been involved in closing units over the years and you have to do it with extreme care because we know that people are very vulnerable in a move.  

“You get quite high death rates after people move, so the best practice is to do it in a really long, considerate way.  

“When you shut wards you have to do it very carefully, you have to plan it, and I think the residents at Mary Feilding Guild have been thrown under a bus really, and not given support.” 

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The psychiatrist, who treats elderly people with dementia, depression and anxiety, called on the new owners to “take it slowly”.  

“The worry is that residents will just rush into having to find anywhere, the first place that's open,” she said.  

“There needs to be a lot of time and very individualised care planning, and they need to put resources into helping those residents – certainly that’s my experience of when it’s gone better. 

“You can’t set a deadline on these things. The deadline should be about the residents, they should be able to set the pace.” 

Mary Feilding Guild, in View Road

Mary Feilding Guild, in View Road - Credit: Polly Hancock

A relative – who asked not to be named – of one of the eldest residents at Mary Feilding Guild, said the new owners had “got everyone over a barrel”.   

They told this newspaper: “She moved rooms a few years ago and that was a huge upheaval for her.  

“So I mean a move starting afresh at this age - come on, in a new place. We're really worried for her blood pressure and for her health. 

“It's also incredibly stressful trying to find somewhere else and the bottom line is there that isn't anywhere else like Mary Feilding Guild, which was a family.  

“Especially after Covid, the residents and staff became family because we couldn't visit. 

“So she’s not just losing her home, she's actually losing her family and her really trusted support system.  

“All the residents are losing their family and that's what's so awful about this.” 

Joy Winterbottom, 88, says residents are being put at risk

Mary Feilding Guild resident, Joy Winterbottom, 88 - Credit: Polly Hancock

The relative said the new owners “cruel and heartless” actions had reduced her to tears, and that the Mary Feilding Guild trust had “utterly failed in their duty of care”.   

Sammy Margo, a physiotherapist working across Hampstead and Highgate, said the move would put “undue stresses and strains on elderly, vulnerable and frail residents”. 

“We need to be mindful of the needs of our aging population and ensure that they get the support that they need in order to re-settle them,” she said. 

Residents at the Mary Feilding Guild home in Highgate 29.03.21.

Residents outside their beloved home - Credit: Polly Hancock

A spokesperson for Highgate Care said: “As care providers with over 25 years’ experience, our intention is to build a new care home on this site, providing a 21st Century model of high-quality care and a home that has a successful and sustainable future.  

“The Highgate Care team are supporting residents and their families during this transition period. All but one resident has now identified alternative accommodation and eight are due to move out before the end of April.

“Eight residents will be moving into nursing and care settings which will provide a greater level of support than Highgate House is set up to provide.  

“The home is registered to offer residential care only for residents with a high level of independence.  

“Therefore, it is likely these residents would move at some point in their lives as their care needs increase with age. This is commonplace within the care sector.” 

A statement from the trustees of Mary Feilding Guild said it was providing practical support to residents, so far two of whom have been offered compensation.

Residents and staff at the Mary Feilding Guild - including six over-100s. Picture: Sarah Lee

Residents and staff from Mary Feilding Guild, pictured in 2015 - Credit: Archant