Friday, 23 August 2013

Elderly get 15-minute visits

New figures, resulting from a Freedom of Information request, show North Ayrshire Council is one of 28 Scottish local authorities that allocate just 15-minutes for home care visits to the frail and elderly in local communities.

Trade union Unison, which lodged the Freedom of Information request with Scotland’s 32 councils, is now calling on the UK and Scottish governments to ban such ’15-minute care slots’.

In March 2012, the3towns reported on a dossier compiled by consumer group Which?: the findings labelled the standard of care provided for older people in their homes as “shocking and disgraceful”.

As is the case in North Ayrshire, Which? found local authorities across the UK had contracted much of the ‘care at home’ service to private companies, whose prime motivation was generating profit rather than providing care.  The Which? investigation discovered carers missed visits, left food out of people’s reach, did not give medication and left elderly residents lying in soiled beds.  Overall, Which? concluded that many senior citizens faced a “constant battle” to just get basic help.

However, the findings of Unison’s Freedom of Information request now reveal that many Scottish councils are actually ‘commissioning’ 15-minute visits when they put ‘care at home’ services out to tender with private companies.

The trade union’s Scottish Secretary, Mike Kirby, said, “Austerity cuts are piling pressure onto an overstretched system, but it is entirely wrong that in a supposedly civilised society councils are commissioning 15 minute home care appointments.

“Any member of the public can understand that 15 minutes is not enough to provide even the most basic care, let alone to very frail clients.  People with dementia also find the rush of such short visits particularly distressing.”

Mr Kirby said Unison wants councils to sign-up to the union’s Ethical Home Care Charter, which calls for the time allocated to visits to match the needs of the clients, with an immediate review of all visits under 30 minutes.

Mike Kirby added, “Unison believes that 15 minute visits exemplify a care on the cheap system, when we should be providing quality public services that ensure respect and dignity for the most vulnerable.”

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