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Local Healthwatch challenges council to cut care waiting times

16/03/16

People often need extra help from their local authority because of a disability, ill health or old age but first they have to have an assessment to establish what support is needed. Find out what Healthwatch Cambridgeshire did when local people told them they had to wait too long for a care assessment.

What made you look into this issue?

One of our roles is to challenge the people who make decisions about local health and social care services, if care isn’t working in the way it should. After we launched in autumn 2013, we heard about people having to wait several months for a care assessment - potentially leaving people who can be quite vulnerable at risk.

What action did you take?

We contacted the council to ask:

  • How many people were still waiting for a care package
  • How long they had been waiting
  • For reassurance that nobody was going without care

The council told us that assessments are prioritised according to levels of need, but that they made sure people were not left without care. People with the greatest need are assessed first but they also told us that people can face a long wait before the assessments can take place.  

The longest that someone had waited as of October 2013 was 47 weeks.

We asked the council to tell us what was being done to tackle the problem and we also raised our concerns with the Local Authority Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

Although waiting times did improve for a short while, they then continued to get worse so we have remained in close contact with the council to ensure that this issue is not overlooked.


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What happened as a result?

Significant steps have now been taken to tackle the problem, including hiring extra staff to help process assessments.

Earlier this month Cambridgeshire County Council told us they have hugely reduced the number of people waiting for a social care assessment and the length of time they have to wait to receive one from 47 weeks to 11 weeks.

What next?

We are pleased that waiting times are now shorter for most people, and that fewer people are waiting for an assessment, but 11 weeks is still a long time. We understand the council is under huge financial pressure, but we will continue to monitor the situation and ask for regular updates on care assessment waiting times, and to challenge them again as needed.


Are you having to wait long for a care assessment? 

If you have an experience of this or any other health or social care service that you would like to share, please get in touch with your local Healthwatch.

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