There has recently been a lot of publicity around home care visits. How can anyone be ‘cared’ for in 15 minutes? By the time the carer has taken off their coat, greeted the person they have come to see, checked how they are feeling and whether they are having any problems and whether the person is comfortable and dressed appropriately then, if this was not a call to provide personal care, the carer then puts their coat back on and says goodbye. That will take all of the 15 minutes – where is the care? Where is the respect and dignity? How can food be provided or the cupboards checked to see if there is enough food? What about the giving of medication? People take time to swallow a lot of tablets. If you are housebound, vulnerable, older, a person with disabilities or mental health problems you need more than a flying visit especially as often it is a different carer for each visit.
The good thing is that a conversation has started about the issue and we must ensure that it is not just talk but action. The Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb has said that from next April the Care Quality Commission (CQC) is proposing to look at whether home care visits are long enough to respond to people’s needs. They will also consider looking at how staff working conditions might be impacting on care. The CQC will assess:
- Whether the service is able to respond to people’s needs in the allocated time
- Whether the care is delivered with compassion, dignity and respect
- How many staff have zero hour contracts
- The levels of staff turnover
But one of the major problems is that staff are not paid for the time they travel between their clients. Does it really make sense that a person could be travelling for ½ to 1 hour to spend 15 minutes with a person? This aspect of the system has to be included in the CQC assessment. What about the support that the staff receive? In many ways the staff are also victims in this system. Many went into this part of the care system to care and they are not allowed to do so as the time limits are unreasonable. What training do they receive? Is there a career structure? Staff also need to be valued. Therefore the CQC should also be assessing the support, training and career structure for staff.
We also know that many people are afraid to make any complaints in case there is some sort of retribution – either that the care is stopped or that there will be resentment by staff. So the surveys asking what you think of the care service usually come out very positive instead of giving the true picture.
Get involved at your local level – watch out for the CQC consultation in the spring and respond, contact the CQC and see if you can be involved in their assessments, join us in asking for a system which really provides good quality care, respect, dignity and compassion and really caters for people’s needs. Let’s not forget that people are paying for this service and it is not cheap.