Improving care for older people in Bradford
Home care services are essential to enabling older people to continue to remain at home and independent. Healthwatch Bradford looked into the quality of local care and found that a number improvements that were needed.
We spoke to Victoria Simmons from Healthwatch Bradford to find out more.
What made you investigate the issue?
National studies have raised concerns about the quality of home care services, including rushed visits, low wages, unpaid travel time, unrealistic rotas and pressures on staff which affect the people they treat. These are also issues in Bradford, where the number of older people is growing and there is significant pressure on adult social care budgets. This, in addition to a recent focus on home care services by Bradford Council’s Health and Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee, is why we decided to investigate the issue, and make sure people’s voices were heard.
What did people tell you?
We heard from 240 older people and their carers. They understood the pressures and challenges that care workers face and we heard a lot about carers going the extra mile, we also heard concerns about things which needed to be improved.
Many talked about rushed visits, unpredictable and variable timings of care and missed visits. When visits are delayed, or cancelled, this is often poorly communicated which can be distressing for older people, particularly those who need routine due to particular conditions or medication.
People sometimes felt their carers rushed in and out, and that sometimes their approach or skill level meant their needs were not met. Some older people said that their carers had a lack of basic housekeeping or culinary skills. One respondent said their carer couldn’t even boil an egg or make a sandwich, often providing inedible food. People also talked about their cultural needs not being taken into account, and a lack of sensitivity to preferences set out in their care plan, such as having a worker of the same sex to carry out personal care like washing and dressing.
People felt the care and support delivered would be better if the care workers had the opportunities to understand individual needs better. A number of respondents said they didn’t feel there was any stability in staff visits and that they see a different carer each time. This can be frustrating and confusing as they feel they need to explain everything all over again to someone new.
What happened as a result?
We provided a series of recommendations for home care providers and Bradford Council and we will be working with them to follow up regarding the changes needed. We received excellent media coverage of our report, which provided useful leverage in getting the council to respond. They have now said publicly that they fully accept our recommendations.
We presented the report at the Health and Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee, where the committee discussed and asked the Director of Social Services to provide detail on what actions the department of Adult and Community Services is taking in response to our recommendations. The report was widely praised, and Councillor Ralph Berry, portfolio holder for health and social care at Bradford Council, said it was very useful piece of work and the local authority was committed to making improvements in response.
Bradford Care Association, which represents 17 separate care providers, also welcomed the report as they are "passionate about the quality of care" but concerned about the pressures facing the sector.
As well as pushing for action from the council, we’re also speaking with a local college that provides training for care workers about how we can embed people’s experiences of receiving care into their courses, to help care workers understand the issues that are really important to people and the positive impact they can make.
You can read the full report on Healthwatch Bradford's website.
If you would like to share your experience of home care services, get in contact with your local Healthwatch.