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Charity warns 15-minute care visits 'on the rise'

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Elderly and disabled people who receive “flying” care visits from healthcare professionals are being forced to choose between staying thirsty and going to the toilet, a charity has warned.

Leonard Cheshire Disability lambasted the practice of care workers spending just 15 minutes with the disabled or elderly people in need of care.

The charity said that the number of 15-minute care visits are on the rise, despite “major concerns” the short visits “deprive” people of essential care.

Data obtained from 63 local authorities by the charity found that three-fifths now commission 15-minute visits.

A new report by the charity estimates that the proportion of visits that last 15 minutes or less has risen by 15% over the past five years.

The report said that the short visits “simply do not allow enough time to deliver good-quality care”.

But social care leaders said that sometimes 15-minute visits are “fully justified”.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) argued that sometimes the short visits are “fully adequate”.

Clare Pelham, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability, called for care visits to be at least 30 minutes long.

“Every day, many disabled and older people in the UK receive personal care, it is disgraceful to force disabled people to choose whether to go thirsty or to go to the toilet by providing care visits as short as 15 minutes long,” she said.

“Most of us need 40 minutes to get up, get washed and dressed and have breakfast in the morning. None of us would want our family and friends to receive ‘care’ visits as short as 15 minutes.

“We should demand better from our councillors and remind them that disabled people are real people with real feelings and should be treated as they themselves would wish to be treated - with kindness, with care and with respect.

“It is vital that Parliament backs our call to end the indignity of rushed care which thousands of disabled people face every day. The clock is ticking and this crucial Care Bill vote is Peers’ last chance to stop this practice for good.”

ADASS president Sandie Keene said that in some cases 15-minute visits are “fully justified, and fully adequate”, adding: “It is totally wrong to believe that all tasks need more than 15 minutes to carry out. And frankly naive to believe that simply by abolishing 15-minute slots a magic wand will have been waved, and improvements automatically achieved in our care services. It doesn’t work like that.”

Katie Hall, chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, added: “Significant cuts to council funding mean local authorities are struggling to meet the rising demand for home care visits. Unless local government finance is put on a sustainable footing social care will remain substantially underfunded and services will suffer as a result.

“We agree that 15-minute visits should never be the sole basis for care and councils do not base their provision of support on such an approach. However, in some circumstances such as administering medication they can be appropriate, but only as part of a wider comprehensive care plan involving longer one-to-one visits.”

Care minister Norman Lamb said: “It’s unrealistic to think that 15 minutes is enough time to help people who are older or who have a disability to do everyday things like wash, dress and get out of bed. It’s not fair on those who need support and it’s not fair on care workers.

“There are too many examples of councils buying rushed care visits and we are working to change this.”

He added: “We need better care now for the 300,000 people currently getting home care and for the millions more who will need it in years to come.”

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of English Community Care Association, said: “There are no circumstances where 15 minute visits are appropriate”. 

“Fifteen minutes may be enough time to perform a function, but it is certainly not enough time to engage in meaningful interaction which respects the dignity and individuality of the person using the service”.

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