The suspension on admissions to all HC-One care homes, the UK’s largest care home provider, will continue for at least a year. 

The “bombshell” was dropped by Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) during an inquest last week. 

CCC’s assistant director for adult social care, Donna Glover, confirmed the news. 

The council suspended admissions to HC-One care homes in summer last year and will not resume them until at least 2024. 

Mrs Glover made the announcement at an inquest into the deaths of three former residents of The Elms Care Home in Whittlesey, which was operated by HC-One and shut down last year. 

HC-One ‘shocked and dismayed’  

HC-One's lawyer, Rebecca Sutton, told the inquest that the company was “shocked and dismayed” at the news and expressed frustration that it had been delivered “by a Teams link in an inquest”. 

This “seems an entirely inappropriate medium,” she said. 

Ms Glover told coroner Caroline Jones that CCC “would need to see a much longer period of sustained improvement” before it could be assured residents placed in HC-One homes could be safe. 

She added that the council has spent more time overseeing this provider than any other – and there are more than 100. 

There have been some improvements at the remaining HC-One homes, Mrs Glover said, but the level of oversight they currently require is “unsustainable”. 

Mrs Sutton said that the decision “beggar’s belief” when a recent CQC inspection - not yet published – rated one of Cambridgeshire’s remaining HC-One homes, The Gables in Whittlesey, as good. 

She also said that CCC has not inspected any of the homes since January, while the CQC has visited more recently and more are planned. 

Decision reached ‘to protect the lives of those in Cambridgeshire’ 

CCC’s lawyer Nick Stanage said that his client didn’t make the decision ‘recklessly’. 

“CCC takes its responsibilities extremely seriously,” he said.  

“It follows the evidence wherever it may lead and it has adopted its present position for a further 12 months only after extensive and almost exhausting levels of monitoring. 

“I fully understand a degree of frustration, but this decision has been reached to protect the lives of those in Cambridgeshire.” 

Ms Jones had been due to decide whether or not to issue HC-One with a Regulation 28 report, prepared when a coroner believes measures should be taken to prevent future deaths. 

The court would have heard for the first time from Antony Hall, a national HC-One director in charge of insights, assurance and governance. 

But the “bombshell” that CCC would continue its embargo, as well as the submission of other last-minute documents, meant that she decided to delay the decision. 

Ms Jones has given all parties until April 21 to submit further documents before she makes her ruling.