When the government raised national minimum standards in Care Homes for the elderly in 2000, the implications for nursing homes was felt throughout the country. With tens of thousands of home care beds closing in the past few years, the Sisters who operate one nursing home in Chiswick took dramatic steps to ensure its continued service.

Sister Jennifer in a digger gets the building work going

St Mary's Convent and Nursing Home in Chiswick has been looking after the most vulnerable members of society, the aged and infirm, since 1910. Actively supported by Florence Nightingale in its early years, the convent and hospital were built around 1896 to give residents respite from the soot and dust of the inner city. St Mary's is today a thriving care community, with 61 people aged between 65 and 102 living in private rooms in the residential part of the building or in wards in the nursing home, cared for by eight Sisters and 75 staff.

The Care Standards Act of 2000 required that all nursing home residents have individual rooms with en-suite bathrooms. However, since St Mary's has two open care wards, there was the distinct possibility that it would lose its licence to operate as a nursing home unless the accommodation was altered in line with the new regulations. Following extensive talks with surveyors and architects, it was decided that an extension must be built to accommodate the additional single rooms required and work done to enhance the existing facilities.

St Mary's operates as a strictly non-profit making charity, and so the Sisters and their supporters threw themselves into the task of raising the £1.7 million required to cover the cost of the necessary alterations and keep the nursing home open. To date they have managed to raise just over half the amount through their savings, fund-raising events and donations from private individuals, local businesses, churches and schools.

On 23rd July, 2002, the Health Minister, Alan Milburn, suggested that there may be some relaxation in the guidelines laid down by the Care Standards Act. Having consulted the Care Standards inspectors, however, St Mary's learned that it would still lose its license to operate if the existing open wards are not replaced and building work is not completed, and so the fund-raising continues. Building work on the project began at the end of September and is matched in earnest only by the frenetic fund-raising activities organized by the convent as it tries to keep pace with the programme, for which a sizeable bank loan has been raised. The funds need to be raised as quickly a possible in order to mitigate interest payments.

Events planned over the next few months include a champagne reception prior to the viewing and sale of a painting collection; musical recitals; several Christmas functions and a Burns Night in January 2003. Help and donations are always welcome. UK tax payers can help even more by completing a gift aid form which increases their donation by 28% at government expense!

For more information on the work of St Mary's, the events and its vital fund-raising efforts to survive, please contact Sister Jennifer Anne at St Mary's Convent and Nursing Home, Burlington Lane, Chiswick, London W4 2QE. 020 8994 4641

October 21, 2002

St. Mary's Convent Nursing Home

Local Nursing Home Threatened with Closure

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