Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Home Care – are carers’ ‘flying visits’ of any value to vulnerable patients?

Recently it has emerged that Home Care visits that are too short are continuing to be standard practice by a number of Councils in England.

Last year the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence issued guidelines for home care visits in an effort to tailor care and avoid a “one size fits all” regime.

The guidelines, released in September 2015 followed the results of an investigation by Unison which revealed that the practice of “flying visits” whereby carers are allotted 15 minutes to attend an elderly or disabled person’s home and provide care, were on the rise.

Whilst it was not suggested that the practice of 15 minute visits should be abolished entirely, it was recommended that they should be kept for “quick check ups” only as part of a wider care package. They should not be used for help with personal care such as help with washing, dressing or eating.

Unison released the report “Suffering Alone At Home” in January, 1 year on from their previous investigation and revealed that the practise continues. Using a Freedom of Information request from 152 councils with responsibility for social care, they revealed that 75% of councils were still using 15 minute visits although one third said they were for the recommended “quick check ups” and were therefore justifiable.

Unison also conducted a survey of 1,102 homecare workers of which 74% believe that they do not have enough time to provide dignified care for their homecare users and 58% were still only being given 15 minutes or less to provide personal care. During a visit most carers are generally required to assist with an element of personal care, cleaning and tidying for the home care user and preparing a meal. With a 15 minute time slot these needs cannot be met and most carers feel a sense of guilt and shame that comes from being forced to leave or rush their visits, knowing their homecare user needs more time. Importantly, for some a carer will be the only person they see all day and the fact that the carer is under so much pressure that they do not even have “time for a chat” is unacceptable.

The knock-on effect of this is that potentially vulnerable patients are deteriorating to the extent that they will need care in a medical setting and so using short visits not only places an intolerable burden on carers and patients but could also lead to further expense if it leads to hospitalisation.

With an aging population, clearly care needs are not being adequately met and the funding of such should be a priority for the government. Commenting on the report, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said:

Fifteen minute homecare visits should have no place in a modern, caring society”

If you are concerned about the quality of care/medical treatment given to yourself or a relative, contact a member of our Medical Negligence Team on 0345 209 1055.

If you or an elderly relative need advice regarding access to health or social care provision then contact a member of our Elderly Care Team.