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Half of elderly homecare visits limited to 15 minutes

Nearly half of local authorities in London are still limiting homecare visits for their elderly, ill and disabled residents to just 15 minutes, revealed UNISON in a report published today.

The report - entitled Suffering Alone at Home - is based on an online survey of 1,100 homecare workers and data obtained from a Freedom of Information request (FOI) to the 152 local authorities in England that commission social care visits. 

Half of the respondents said this means there was no time to assess any change in the person's health, while 85% said they regularly didn't even have time for a conversation.

This is despite the fact that the majority (82%) of the people they saw on their rounds suffered from dementia, half had mental health problems (51%) and more than a third (37%) hardly ever had visits from friends or relatives, which is why the workers felt it was important to be able to spend time in each person's home.

Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary, said: “It is heartbreaking and distressing that many elderly and disabled people are not being cared for in a humane and dignified manner. Homecare workers have shared their harrowing stories with a strong sense of sadness, guilt, anger, and ultimately disgust, at a broken homecare system.”

Similarly, one distressed worker told Unison: “It's disrespectful - these people have lived through wars to become reliant on help. It feels like you're abusing them.”

Official guidance published last September by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advised against visits shorter than half an hour. It said that homecare visits should be long enough to complete the work without compromising its quality or the dignity of the person.

"Rushed 15 minute homecare visits should have no place in a modern, caring society,” Prentis urged.