Short care visits to elderly and disabled people are “disgraceful” and on the rise, Leonard Cheshire Disability has claimed.

Short Care Calls

In England, 60% of councils use these very short 15-minute visits, which are not long enough to provide adequate care, the charity says such visits can “force disabled people to choose whether to go thirsty or to go to the toilet”. But local care managers insisted some short visits could be “fully justified and fully adequate”.

Leonard Cheshire is pushing for a ban on what it calls the “scandal of flying 15-minute visits”, lobbying the government to outlaw the practice in England. However care minister Norman Lamb told the BBC the government “can’t ban these short visits completely” because they are appropriate in some circumstances, such as when a carer visits to give someone medicine.

A report published by the charity said short visits “simply do not allow enough time to deliver good-quality care”.

The research from this reported saw that 63 local councils showed a 15% rise in such visits in the last five years, and said some in councils more than 75% of care visits were carried out in less than 15 minutes.

Leonard Cheshire wants peers to back a ban on short visits by amending the government’s Care Bill when it is debated in the House of Lords on Wednesday. Mr Lamb said the government would not outlaw the short visits, but said they were “completely inappropriate” when people needed things like feeding or bathing going on to day “We’re actually introducing an amendment to the Care Bill this week which will require councils to focus on an individual’s wellbeing when they’re organising care on their behalf, and so this sort of very short visit for personal care would not meet that standard”.

Mr Lamb said too many councils were “buying rushed care” and added: “We need better care now for the 300,000 people currently getting home care and for the millions more who will need it in years to come.” He said the government plans to “force” the NHS and local government to work better together and end the “ridiculous split” between health and social care.

Speaking on BBC radio an unnamed Thames Valley care worker, said 15-minute visits usually overrun. But she said the short time available still forced carers to make choices such as whether to leave someone alone with a hot drink which they might spill on themselves, or sit with them while they drink but fail to get them ready for bed. Asked if people’s safety was being compromised by visits being too short, she replied: “Their safety, their independence, their dignity.”

An 83 year old house-bound lady who receives these services said even in 30-minute calls “nothing got done” because carers would take some time booking in, checking what the previous carer had done and preparing for whatever tasks needed doing. She said 15-minute visits might be fine for giving someone medicine, but for people living alone it was “wonderful to see someone” and short visits allowed no time for conversation.

The Local Government Association (LGA), said social care was “substantially underfunded” and councils were under increasing pressure “Significant cuts to council funding mean local authorities are struggling to meet the rising demand for home care visits,” said Katie Hall, chairwoman of the LGA’s community and well-being board. She said 15-minute visits “should never be the sole basis for care”, but added: “In some circumstances such as administering medication they can be appropriate, but only as part of a wider comprehensive care plan involving longer one-to-one visits.”

Leonard Cheshire Disability said a survey of 2,025 people found 93% of those who expressed an opinion agreed 15 minutes was “not long enough to support a disabled or older person to do everyday things like wash, dress and get out of bed in the morning”.

United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) the professional association for domiciliary care agencies, today expressed disbelief that the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) claim that “in some cases, 15-minute visits to older people at home are fully justified, and fully adequate”.

Sadly HomeCareDirect have experienced the funding constraints that councils are under and are the swing towards these short multiple visits – we strongly believe that care should fully meet the needs of the individual and that this would rarely be able to be provided in such short time frames.  Many of the people we work with have complex care needs and as such these needs would not be able to be met in short ‘pop in calls’.  HomeCareDirect fully support Leonard Cheshire Disability and UKHCA’s campaigns for this way of providing care to be reviewed and are pleased to see this is being brought to the attention of the general public.

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