Plans for former Mary Feilding Guild 'glossy PR' or 'unique' short-stay care?

Designs for The View, to replace Mary Feilding Guild

Designs for The View, which could replace Mary Feilding Guild - Credit: Highgate Care

Plans for a 70-bed care facility to replace the former Mary Feilding Guild home in Highgate have drawn criticism from campaigners and relatives. 

The owners of the site, Highgate Care, published online proposals for The View that would give short-term support to help people recover from operations.  

The provider says it is speaking with Haringey Council about how to open up its facilities – but critics including residents and organisations representing the elderly say the designs won’t meet the needs of the area.  

Highgate Care closed the former Mary Feilding Guild building this summer after taking it over in March, giving residents aged between 85 to 104 less than three months to leave.  

Ann Horne, a relative of a former Mary Feilding Guild resident, told the Ham&High: “The plan for the site somehow does not surprise, privileging as it does financial gain over need.

Residents were given less than three months notice to leave

Former Mary Feilding Guild residents who fought to keep the care home open - Credit: Polly Hancock

“The whole process ignored the position of the residents being decanted with little notice in a pandemic with restricted visiting, unable to be helped by family.   

“It also ravaged the aims of Mary Feilding for the care of retired elderly people. Our 101-year-old aunt has moved near to us but is still enraged, rightly, and was exhausted and traumatised.” 

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Plans for The View include a two-storey “community hub” with a hydrotherapy pool, gym, wellness centre and restaurant.    

Francis Beckett, who spearheaded the campaign to save the Mary Feilding Guild, called the plan a “glossy PR presentation, full of feelgood words”.  

“It tells us that pulling down the existing period buildings and throwing up a new one will allow them to more than double the number of residents they can cram onto on the site,” he said.  

“Disturbingly, there are frequent references suggesting a subtle change of use, from a home for the elderly to a private convalescent home, which is a more profitable business.” 

Francis challenged claims of a “convalescent model unique to London”, as described on the website, and said the owner “carefully avoids” stating which facilities will be for the local community.

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

Jan Shortt, general secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention, called the plans “shameful” and urged greater protections for the elderly.  

“Unfortunately, there are no legal safeguards to give tenure for life for those needing care, and no system in place to stop care homes from being closed at the drop of a hat,” Jan said.  

“Care homes have no more protection than the local shop with the residents seen as commodities.” 

William Britain, chair of the Highgate Society, said it was in discussion with Highgate Care and that it had conveyed concerns including the North Hill frontage and the prospective overshadowing of houses in Yeatman Road.  

Earlier in the week, MP Catherine West and Highgate councillor Liz Morris claimed the owner had reneged on its pledge to provide long-term care.

Highgate Care director Mitesh Dhanak

Highgate Care director Mitesh Dhanak - Credit: Highgate Care

A spokesperson for Highgate Care said: “The View will offer bespoke nursing and convalescence care for people of all ages, though we anticipate most residents will be elderly, as this age group tends to most require this type of care from procedures such as hip and knee replacements. 

“Convalescent care is designed to help people recover from an operation with the support of our staff and facilities.  

“The convalescence model will support and help to reduce the burden on local health services, offering improved recovery and reduced chances of additional hospital visits.  

“We have also, in discussions with Haringey Council, been asked to open up our state-of-the-art wellbeing facilities, such as a large hydrotherapy pool, aquatic treadmills and rehabilitation gym equipment, to the local community and we are actively looking to do this.”

A planning application is yet to be submitted, but is expected this autumn. If approved by Haringey Council, works could start next summer, with the facility opening in winter 2024. 

It is understood the council will meet with Highgate Care to discuss its plans in more detail, with the town hall looking to ensure the proposals fit the needs of the local community.