Blackburn with Darwen Council admitted the problems after a Tory councilor told a public meeting the £12.5million Albion Mill project in Ewood was ‘not fit for purpose’.
The long-delayed 109-bed ‘extra-care’ scheme – which has 35 ‘Intermediate Care’ rooms (including four specialist rehabilitation apartments) aimed at enabling older patients to be promptly discharged from hospital and prevent unnecessary admissions – finally launched in February last year.
The scheme – which opened eight years late after repeated problems including coronavirus during construction – was explicitly touted as a means to reducing pressure at the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General Hospitals by allowing the discharge of medically-fit older people to free up beds for other patients .
At last week’s Blackburn with Darwen Council Forum West Pennine Ward’s Cllr Julie Slater said: “We all know that Albion Mill is not fit for purpose.
“There’s an empty floor there. The lift keeps breaking down.
“Doorways are too small. I could go on and on.
“We need to get this sorted.
“This is meant to be unlocking beds for the hospital.
“It’s not working.
“The pressure on our hospital is just diabolical. We need to make sure that it is fit for purpose as soon as possible.”
Following inquiries from the Lancashire Telegraph Cllr Mustafa Desai, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s adult social care boss, said: “Albion Mill is an important partnership between The Council, Inclusion Housing and the NHS, and offers really high-quality, fantastic facilities for people who stay there.
“The Intermediate Care part of Albion has been operating for over a year and one floor of the facility is fully open for people who are discharged from hospital and set to return to their own homes, or as way to prevent hospital admissions.
“There are a number of factors that have delayed the opening of the second floor, which includes technical difficulties associated with the building and complications with respect to operating the current staffing model over two distinct floors.
“With respect to repairs to the building the managing housing provider is working hard to resolve issues as quickly as possible, including the repair of one of the lifts.
“The local authority, NHS Trusts and local primary care services are working together to resolve the difficulties associated with the staffing model to make sure that this is fully operational as soon as possible.
“This includes consideration of whether it will be necessary to use the different floors to support residents with different levels of need.
“The extra care and the community hub at Albion Mill are both in full use and are both working very successfully.”
Ewood ward Labor councilor Elaine Whittingham said: “I find these sweeping comments of Cllr Slater both dangerous and disrespectful.
“The great piece of collaborative work. The past eight months has seen tremendous changes. I regularly speak to residents who now only give great feedback.
“The issue regarding unused beds is a complex combination between primary and secondary care which is challenging.
“Staffing in social care is an issue which is not restricted to Blackburn, but is a well publicized national issue.
“However I know that the recruitment process is underground.”