Shock toll of 5-minute care visits: Hundreds of thousands of elderly suffer 'drive-bys' as stretched councils tell staff not to waste time making conversation

This story has been picked up by both print and TV news media over the last few weeks as the UK awaits the implementation of the new Care Act which is due to come into force next month.

The Care Act is being promoted as a vehicle to improve access to care in the home and to give people greater empowerment in deciding how they would like to be looked after whilst staying in their own homes surrounded by their lives possessions and memories.

However, central government grant cuts have seen spending on social care the elderly at a local level fall from £9.95 billion in 2011 to £8.85 billion last year. These cash pressures are likely to increase further the number of very short pop in visits where carers barely have time to make their client a cup of tea.

I truly despair of this attitude. Yes there is some requirement for carers to perform purely task based visits when they go into the client’s homes to help with washing, bathing and dressing etc. However this approach totally ignores the necessity to look at people in their entirety, administering to their emotional needs as well as the physical ones.

Many of our clients see no one else but our carers during the course of a day. We are therefore their window onto the outside world, and their one chance to have some human contact during their day.  How could we even begin to demonstrate dignity and respect to these clients in the space of five to fifteen minutes?

Norman Lamb, Lib Dem care minister has described the situation as ‘totally inappropriate and unacceptable.’ He added ‘It is just fanciful to think that elderly people can be provided with compassionate and kind care in this sort of time slot.’

However, despite repeatedly condemning short 15-minute visits, the Government has stopped short of banning them. Instead, ministers have promised a crackdown by ordering the Care Quality Commission watchdog to investigate their use.

What is evolving therefore is a true dichotomy of words against actions. The Social Care Charter and new Care Act are seeking to drive up standards, provide a living wage for people working in social care and encourage care providers to look after their employees.  Government spending on social care is following a contradictory agenda.

At Home Instead, we will continue to champion the case for nearly all care visits to be of an hour or more, giving us the time to spend talking with our clients, building a developing relationship with them and supporting them to broaden their horizons. That’s exactly what I would have wanted for my mum and dad.

This article was published in the March 2015 edition of Xn Magazine. It can be viewed by following this link