Unacceptably short 15-minute home care visits to elderly and disabled people are still plaguing the care system in England, a report suggests. Research by Unison found “distressing” cases of care being compromised after surveying councils and care workers.
Councils are not meant to schedule 15-minute visits for personal care, like help with washing, dressing or eating. But the union said its findings showed many were still doing just that despite repeated calls for longer visits. Ministers have been demanding councils which are in charge of care services stop using the so-called “flying visits”.
And guidance issued last year by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said visits should last at least 30 minutes unless it was for a quick check-up as part of a wider package of care, such as calling in to make sure someone has taken medication.
Unison received responses to a Freedom of Information request from all 152 councils with responsibility for social care, just as the guidance was being introduced and received feedback from 1,100 care staff via an online survey.
Three-quarters of councils reported they used 15-minute visits although a third said they were for quick checks for justifiable reasons. But Unison said it still suggested there were major problems, with three-quarters of care staff filling in the online survey complaining they did not have enough time to provide dignified care.
Half reported they had been asked to provide personal care for people they had never even met before with carers reporting they were left feeling “angry, ashamed and embarrassed” by the standard of care they could provide. One carer said: “I had to visit a lady who is 102 years old for a shower, help her get dressed, make food, tidy her kitchen, give her medication and put her bins out in 20 minutes. It’s humiliating as we haven’t got time to have a chat.”
What is home care?
- The term covers services provided in people’s homes, such as help with washing, dressing and eating
- It is organised by councils although often provided by external care agencies
- Unlike NHS services, people have to pay for care, with only the poorest receiving state help, funded and organised by local councils
- Aroundt 500,000 people in England currently receive home care – with over 70% of those getting contributions from councils
- Another 1.5 million rely on family and friends for support
The government has argued it is investing in care services. It has created the Better Care Fund, worth £5.3bn this year, to ensure the NHS works more closely with councils on care. Local authorities are also being given the power to increase council tax by 2% to invest in care.
But the Local Government Association has argued this does not make up for the wider cuts being made to councils, the costs of introducing the national living wage and the rising demand for support.
Councillor Izzi Seccombe, from the LGA, said: “Short visits are sadly just one of the many symptoms of a social care and support system that is under enormous financial pressure.