Which? exposes failings in home care system

Published on Friday, 16 March 2012 09:33
Posted by Scott Buckler

A Which? investigation has exposed shocking examples of poor home care of vulnerable people, suggesting a system that is at breaking point

Which? asked 30 older people to keep diaries during one week in January. These diaries showed a distressed older lady left in the dark, unable to see her food or drink, a man's vital diabetic medication forgotten and rushing careworkers.

Safety concerns

Our experts analysed the diaries alongside a survey of 926 Which? Connect Panel members (January 2012).

They were concerned that, as people are living at home with increasingly complex care needs, safety is being jeopardised by poorly managed care.However, they did also see some excellent care, showing how it can be done.

Complaints

In many cases, respondents' diaries showed that a good service was only received after making complaints.

One daughter said that improvement came after 'continuous phone calls' and a 'constant battle' with the agency. But many receiving care are reluctant or afraid to complain. One survey respondent told us: 'My mother wouldn't hear of me complaining because she was frightened.'

The home care system

Which? also interviewed key stakeholders in the home care system, including commissioning managers, home care managers and careworkers.Commissioning managers told us of the huge pressure to make savings and the difficulty in not compromising on service delivery.

Home care managers spoke of tightening margins and the struggle to maintain a quality service, while careworkers described bearing the brunt of increased responsibilities and low pay.

Missed visits

The human impact of this system is of great concern, and problems can take their toll on family members, too.

One daughter told us:  'They [the agency] missed a day just after Christmas. They incorrectly entered into the database the days we didn't need care. I covered, but Mum didn't contact me until early evening by which time she needed a lot of cleaning up.'

Our survey showed that 47% of respondents reported a missed visit in the past six months, and 62% of these were not warned in advance.

Action needed

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd says: 'The Government can no longer claim to be shocked as report after report highlights the pitiful state of care for older people.

'If they are serious about ensuring vulnerable people are treated with dignity, then we must see real action because every day they delay is another day older people risk being neglected.'

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