Care providers and council officials have refuted claims that Fenland pensioners are suffering the indignity of rushed care due to unacceptably short home care visits.
New research by public service union Unison claimed Cambridgeshire and Norfolk County Councils were compromising the care of the elderly, ill and disabled by limiting some home care visits to just 15 minutes.
But Norfolk County Council strongly denied the body’s findings, saying its research was unfair on the service it provided. Cambridgeshire County Council also said shorter visits were usually part of a larger package of support, with a number of visits to an individual each day.
A Wisbech-based care provider, which offers council-funded care in both counties, also said both councils have always allowed its staff more time for visits when needed.
A Unison report, entitled Suffering Alone at Home and published on Friday, found all 11 councils which commission social care in the East of England were limiting visits for personal care, like help with washing, dressing or eating, to quarter of an hour. Official healthcare guidelines say they should be at least 30 minutes.
The report was based on an online survey of 1,100 homecare workers and data obtained from Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to 152 local authorities in England.
Unison said three-quarters (74 per cent) of home care workers who responded to the survey felt they did not have enough time to provide dignified care. And 61 per cent said short visits meant they often had to rush the care of those aged over 90.
“It’s humiliating as we haven’t got time to have a chat,” said one. “It feels like you’re abusing them.”
Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, described the system as “broken” and blamed “eye-watering cuts” by ministers.
However, a spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: “We wish to be clear that we don’t commission 15-minute personal care visits in Norfolk and always follow (official healthcare) guidance.
“In some instances you might have someone pop in for 15 minutes or so to check that individual has taken their medication or for welfare purposes, but this would only happen alongside longer visits for personal care.”
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council added: “The council arranges many visits of 30 minutes and sometimes more to support people in personal care tasks.
“In the last 12 months we have reviewed our use of 15- minute calls. The majority relate to less personal tasks such as prompting people to take medications. We continue to monitor the use of shorter calls, many of which are part of a larger package of support involving a number of visits to an individual each day.”
The owner of a Wisbech-based care provider, who did not want to be named, said she has never had a problem.
“If we’ve ever needed more time with someone, we go back to the councils giving them the reason and we’ve always been given extra time,” she said. “My care staff are quite vocal girls and one thing they do say is that they are really pleased with the time they have.”