Across England there are more than 5,500 home care providers, collectively helping an estimated 673,000 people to continue living independently within their communities. Home care services help people live at home for longer by offering support, such as regular visits from a carer to help with personal care, getting dressed, using the toilet, shopping and preparing meals.
Our new report, Home care services: What people told Healthwatch about their experiences, analyses the experiences of 3,415 people, their families and front line staff across 52 local areas between August 2015 and June 2017.
Most people had positive things to say about their home care. These services are invaluable to many people, both for the quality of care provided and the support and company of care workers.
Older people in particular said that one of the most positive things about home care is that it enables them to remain in their own home and to maintain as much independence as possible.
However, we also discovered four areas where people's experiences could be improved.
Areas for improvement
Care planning – People spoke a lot about staff who were unfamiliar with their clients’ care plans. In cases where it was a staff member’s first visit to a client, they often didn't have enough time to read the care plan in advance. A care user speaking with Healthwatch Blackpool said, “Unless they have attended before they do not know what has to be done.”
Skills and qualifications – Many people said they valued the dedication and experience of staff sent to care for them. However, people said that some care workers lacked experience and basic skills, such as the ability to wash someone or make them breakfast. One resident in her eighties told Healthwatch Bradford that one of her carers was unable to boil an egg or make the bed, while another person said care workers needed to be taught “home care common sense.”
Consistency and continuity - All local Healthwatch found problems with staff coming at different times and even missing appointments. Healthwatch Staffordshire heard from a number of people who felt that care packages were designed to meet the needs of the service provider rather than the service user.
Communication and feedback – Providers need to make greater and more regular use of feedback to address problems early and prevent minor issues turning into complaints. Several people who spoke to Healthwatch said they had only communication with the organisations providing their care. Healthwatch Bucks found that all communication with clients of one provider went through frontline staff. This created problems when staff were on holiday or off sick.
Neil Tester, Deputy Director of Healthwatch England, said:
"It’s often incredibly important to people to be able to stay in the familiar surroundings of their own home. One of the most positive aspects of home care is that it enables people to hold on to as much independence as possible.
“We listened to people using home support services and those delivering care and they have given us a clearer picture of how the system works for them. We heard examples of compassionate care from dedicated staff, but people also talked about care that doesn’t meet even basic standards.
“Given the challenges facing the social care sector, it is more important than ever that people’s voices are heard. So if anyone has a story they want to share or an idea they think might help, I urge them to get involved and speak to their local Healthwatch.”