‘15-minute care visits’

This week in England there has been high profile media reports, both nationally and within the nursing press, about ‘15-minute care’ visits for individuals requiring social and healthcare in the community.  Headlines such ‘councils ordered care agencies to complete vital home visits in 15-minute time-slots to save money’ sparked the media ‘frenzy’. The backdrop was a survey undertaken by the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity (http://www.lcdisability.org/) which advocates on behalf of disabled people for a society in which every person is equally valued, with the opportunity and support to live independently. On the 7th October the charity published its survey ‘Ending 15-minute care’. The survey included findings from: a ComRes poll of 2,025 adults including 456 adults with a disability or health condition undertaken between in September 2013; 137 responses for information from 152 English local authorities, one English Primary Care Trust and one English Clinical  Commissioning Group under the Freedom of Information Act; qualitative interviews undertaken with care workers, disabled and older people in receipt of 15-minute care visits, and family members of those in receipt of 15-minute care visits.

Key findings included:

  • 60% of local authorities in England now commission 15-minute visits, some local authorities deliver more than three-quarters of their care visits in 15 minutes;
  • The proportion of visits which lasted 15 minutes or less has risen by 15% over the past five years;
  • Over 90% of people who expressed an opinion believed that disabled or older people have the right to receive social care visits that allow for enough time for care workers to give the appropriate support, and that a 15-minute visit is unlikely to be long enough to support a disabled or older person to do everyday things such as wash, dress and get out of bed.

There is no doubt that the current global economic crisis is impacting on healthcare availability and delivery. Yet, technological advances, an increasing elderly population, and increased number of individuals with long-term condition, the need for care is growing and yet the amount being spent on care appears to be falling.  A UK Government White Paper is expected next week, which is likely advocate increasing use of ‘personal budgets’ to enable individuals to have greater control of the type of care they receive.  Personal budgets on the surface are attractive and no doubt work for many individuals, but requires individuals to have the skills, ability and means to manage their own care package.   While a new model of care is desirable, it is essential individuals are not treated as a ‘commodity’ in an open care market.

While the Leonard Cheshire survey reports findings from England, I would be interested to hear views form international colleagues.