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This article is from the WebMD News Archive

Home care for the elderly 'patchy'

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

13th February 2013 - A quarter of home care services for the elderly in England are failing to meet all quality and safety standards.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) based its findings on an inspection programme of standards of care delivered to people in their own homes. Inspectors looked at a sample of 250 home care services that were helping to look after more than 26,000 people. Of these, 208 were privately run, 22 were council operated and 20 were run by voluntary organisations.

Campaigners say the findings show that home care services are stretched.

Looking after the elderly in their own homes is considered vital to keep people out of residential care. Earlier this week the government announced plans to cap the cost of social care at £75,000 for people in England to stop the elderly having to sell their homes to pay for their care bills.

Five national standards

The CQC says its inspection found that many people were receiving good standards of care but that 26% of the services inspected failed to meet all five national standards. Agencies were measured on respecting and involving people who use services; the care and welfare of people who use services; safeguarding people who use services from abuse; how providers support their staff and how providers assess and monitor the quality of the services they deliver.

The main concerns were:

  • Missed or late calls and inconsistent weekend services
  • Lack of staff knowledge and skill, particularly with regard to dementia
  • Inadequate assessment of needs including reviews and updates
  • Lack of detailed care plans including choices and preferences and complex care needs
  • Lack of coordination of visits requiring two care workers
  • Lack of involvement of family or carers

David Behan, CQC chief executive, says in a statement: "People have a right to expect to be treated as an individual, to be able to exercise choice, and to make sure their carers are aware of their specific care needs. We found plenty of evidence of this however we also found elements of poor care which happen too often."

Relatives and carers

As part of the inspection programme, the CQC canvassed the views of more than 4,600 people who were using home care services as well as their relatives and carers. It says it is particularly concerned that where standards were poor this came as no surprise to those using the services or their loved ones.

The CQC report recommends that services must now work more closely with commissioners to improve care, find solutions to these common problems and put systems in place to monitor the impact of missed or late visits.

Funding pressures

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General at Age UK, says in a statement that "funding pressures are resulting in many committed care workers becoming over stretched, with staff forced to choose between rushed visits or leaving early without being able to finish tasks, which can have a devastating effect on older people who rely on these services".

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