Pensioners including war veterans receiving brief 15 minute care visits that contravene official guidelines
A Unison survey using Freedom of Information laws found that three quarters of councils are commissioning 15 minute home care visits in 2015, the same proportion as in 2015 and an increased on 2013
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Hundreds of thousands of pensioners including war veterans are receiving care visits that are so brief that nursing staff do not even speak to them, in contravention of official guidelines.
The pensioners are suffering rushed care visits despite health secretary Jeremy Hunt saying nearly two years ago that 15 minute visits are “completely unacceptable”.
A survey using Freedom of Information laws found that three quarters of councils commissioned 15 minute home care visits last year.
The proportion – 74 per cent – in 2015 is the same as an identical survey carried out by Unison in 2014, and more than the 69 per cent in 2013.
The survey was carried out last August and September over a peroid when guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said that they should be 30 minute long were introduced last year.
The Nice guidelines said homecare visits should only be shorter if “the homecare worker is known to the person, and the visit is part of a wider package of support, and it allows enough time to complete specific, time limited tasks or to check if someone is safe and well”.
The report from Unison, titled “Suffering Alone At Home” surveyed 152 local authorities in England which commission home care social visits.
The brief visits meant that carers often had no time to take the pensioners to the toilet or help them wash, Unison, a union which represents care staff, found.
The report added that many of those being cared for would be veterans of the Second World War.
It said: “This contingent of homecare users will undoubtedly include veterans of the Second World War, who despite being feted for their wartime efforts by the government, are condemned to existe in a homecare system that is denying them dignity.”
A separate survey of 1,100 home care workers by Unison found that two thirds said that 15 minute visits meant they had to rush care for people who are over 90 years old, and often had no time for conversation.
One third said they had no time to address people’s personal hygiene such as washing and a quarter have no time to take people to the toilet”.
Half (49 per cent) said a quarter of an hour wasn’t long enough to prepare a nutritional meal, and the same proportion said the shortness of the visit meant there was no time to assess any change in the person’s health.
More than half (53 per cent) of those being treated were stroke victims, had mental health issues (51 per cent) and 42 per cent had Parkinson’s disease.
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Dave Prentis, Unison’s general secretary, said: “Rushed 15 minute homecare visits should have no place in a modern, caring society.
“No-one wants to have to choose between washing someone or feeding them. Councils will continue to do all they can to maintain the services that older people rely on, but with no immediate extra cash available from the improved Better Care Fund next year, we are concerned that the most vulnerable members of communities will be at risk of losing the essential and dignified care that helps them to live independently.”
“It is heartbreaking and distressing that many elderly and disabled people are not being cared for in a humane and dignified manner.
“Homecare workers have shared their harrowing stories with a strong sense of sadness, guilt, anger, and ultimately disgust, at a broken homecare system.
“Homecare workers are often the only faces some people see all day, and they are a lifeline – only they can call for help and ensure that the housebound people they care for are fed, washed and well.
“Although the Government is going to allow local authorities to raise council tax to fund social care, the crisis is so great that any extra cash will barely touch the sides.”
Izzi Seccombe, the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing spokesman, said: “Short visits are sadly just one of the many symptoms of a social care and support system that is under enormous financial pressure.
“Whilst short visits should not be the sole basis for care, in some circumstances, such as administering medication, they can be appropriate as part of a wider comprehensive care plan involving longer one-to-one visits.