Homecare report highlights deficiencies
Healthwatch, an independent champion for people who use health and social care services, has published a report on homecare services, in response to what it says has been a doubling of the priority of concern about homecare over the last year.
The organisation analysed the experiences of 3,415 home care users, their families and front line staff across 52 local areas between August 2015 and June 2017. These findings came from local Healthwatch events, surveys and site visits to health and care services.
Healthwatch has identified four themes which it believes will be of interest to those who commission, provide and regulate social care services:
• Care planning – People frequently reported that staff were unfamiliar with their clients’ care plans. In cases where it was a staff member’s first visit to a client, insufficient time was often allowed to enable them to read the care plan. A care user speaking with Healthwatch Blackpool said, “Unless they have attended before they do not know what has to be done.”
• Skills and qualifications – Many of those who spoke about their experiences said they valued the dedication and experience of those sent to care for them. However, others lacked experience and basic skills, such as being able to wash someone or make them breakfast. One resident in her 80s told Healthwatch Bradford that one of her carers was unable to boil an egg or make the bed, while another person said care workers needed to be taught “homecare common sense.”
• Consistency and continuity – All local Healthwatch agencies found problems with staff coming at different times and even missing appointments. Healthwatch Staffordshire found a number of people reporting that it felt like care packages were designed to meet the needs of the service provider rather than the service user.
• Communication and feedback – Providers need to look to make greater and more regular use of feedback to address problems early and prevent minor issues turning into complaints. Several people who spoke with Healthwatch highlighted the lack of communication they had with the organisations providing their care. Healthwatch Bucks found that all communication with clients of one provider was run through frontline staff. This created problems when staff were on holiday or were off sick.
Izzi Seccombe, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said the report showed that, while most people had said their services were good there was a need to improve services.
“The financial pressure facing services is having an impact and even the very best efforts of councils are not enough to avert the real and growing crisis we are facing in ensuring older people receive the care they deserve,” said Ms Seccombe.
“The continuing underfunding of adult social care, the significant pressures of an ageing population and the National Living Wage are combining to heap pressure on the homecare provider market.
“This study shows the strain providers are under, and emphasises the urgent need for a long-term, sustainable solution to the social care funding crisis. While the £2bn announced in the spring budget for social care was a step in the right direction, it is only one-off funding and social care services still face an annual £2.3bn funding gap by 2020.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Everyone deserves access to high-quality care, including those who receive it in their home. This is why we have introduced tougher inspections of care services to drive up standards, provided an additional £2bn for adult social care, and have committed to consult on the future of social care to ensure sustainability in the long term.”