Town hall defends OAP care visits

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Council chiefs in St Helens say 15 minutes home visits - which have been branded as inadequate by a health watchdog - are only used in the interests of patients.

The practice, which has been criticised by the Nice Institute for Health Care Excellence (Nice), is used in around 25 per cent of domiciliary care calls in the borough.

Nice issued new guidance to care providers this week following a review of services.

Included in the package is a recommendation that carers spend at least 30 minutes on home visits to elderly residents.

St Helens Council said 15 minute slots are still used throughout the borough.

Nice has also proposed ensuring carers are not changed between service users too frequently so that they can establish a working relationship.

Although it acknowledges that the changes would only be realistic if increased funding for social care was made available.

Nice deputy chief executive Prof Gillian Leng said good quality home care could relieve the strain on care homes and hospitals.

Prof Leng added: “Without good support, older people can suffer from social isolation, malnutrition or neglect. They may also be at risk of injuring themselves, perhaps from a fall or other accident.”

St Helens Council says more than 70 per cent of call currently take far longer than 15 minutes.

A council spokesman said: “Approximately 23 per cent of domiciliary care calls are 15 minute calls. These calls are task-orientated - and usually involve checking that someone is secure and safe.

“Their purpose might also be to act as a prompt to take medication – or simply to check on someone’s wellbeing.

“Over 70 per cent of calls though will involve visits longer than 15 minutes – up to 30 or 45 minutes in some cases - for more complex care needs. These will be determined by the assessed needs of the service user.”

Welcoming Nice’s report, Minister for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt said: “Most of us envisage spending our old age in our own home and we want to provide the great care that can make that a reality.

“We asked Nice to develop this guideline so providers have clear standards that we will expect them to follow.

“This will not only provide reassurance for countless families who rely on this care but for the thousands of workers who want the time and support to be able to give people the care they deserve.”

Miranda Okon, a home care worker who helped to develop the guideline: said“The role of a home care worker is a valuable one. I see three or four people a day and help them with things such as doing their laundry or shopping, cooking meals, or helping them to wash.

“I also make sure I have time to chat to them as I might be the only person they see that day.”