Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that more than half a million council care visits lasted less than five minutes each.
Six of the 103 councils that responded actively commissioned five minute visits, while another 72 only allowed 15 minute visits. Detailed figures revealed that when travel time was taken into account, 593,000 care visits were five minutes or less.
Care minister Norman Lamb said the figures highlighted the need for an overhaul of home care services to stop the practice of clock-watch care: “It is totally inappropriate and unacceptable for frail elderly people and those with disabilities to receive care visits to address their personal needs in this sort of time. It is just fanciful to think that elderly people can be provided with compassionate and kind care in this sort of time slot.”
“Allocating such a short amount of time for home visits makes it impossible to deliver proper care or to allow any normal friendly interaction between the carer and the person receiving care,” added Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK. “This is dehumanising, particularly where intimate care is being provided, and robs people of all dignity.”
In response, the councils surveyed said the five minute visit may include those where the person visited was out or simply needed reminding to take medication. However one carer in the North East said she had been told not to start up conversations in case she was ‘held up’.
Fiona Lowry, CEO of the Good Care Company, said of the findings: “It is sad to hear of this ‘drive by’ approach to home care, which depersonalises vulnerable people and damages their dignity. Our carers build real care relationships in addition to meeting medical needs, and this cannot be delivered with short visits. Good Care Group ensure your loved one is always given the time and holistic, personal understanding they need.”