Every voice matters: Newcastle residents help transform local home care services
We’re here to listen to what everyone thinks of health and care services. We’re not just interested in the views and experiences of people that shout loudest, but every member of the community.
That’s why, when home care services were due to be recommissioned in Newcastle, local Healthwatch went out to speak to people being looked after in their own homes to find out what they wanted.
Some people want to continue living at home, but need help to remain independent. This might be because they’re recovering from surgery, it might be due to old age or disability, or there might be other reasons why they need extra assistance. Around 900,000 people in the UK are supported in their homes in this way.
Newcastle City Council commissions providers to run home care across the city and in mid-2016 the service was due to go out to tender for the next three years. With 28% less money in the budget, it was crucial that the next providers focused on the elements of the service that mattered most to people.
The very nature of this type of care means that it’s not always easy to find out what people think of it, but our network exists to do just that.
“We hadn’t heard from people receiving home care. They’re often vulnerable and because the care is delivered in people’s homes, it’s hard to know how happy people are with it,” Luke Arend, Project Manager at Healthwatch Newcastle said. “This was a real opportunity for us to find out what mattered to people and to influence the future of care in our community.”
Healthwatch Newcastle spoke to a broad range of people, including carers and relatives, care workers, the council, care providers, unions, voluntary and community groups, as well as people receiving care themselves. They also spoke with the commissioner from the start to ensure that their findings would be valued and used.
They found that most people were very happy with the quality of care, however, there were a number of areas in need of improvement, including:
- Continuity of care worker (i.e. enabling people to see the same carer each time)
- Communication between the care provider and the individual
- Medicine management
- Care worker training
- Care worker punctuality and time allocation
- How care workers are managed and supported
- Complaints handling
- What should you expect from home care services?
- Healthwatch network reveals public's health and care priorities for 2017
People said they preferred to see the same care worker each time, to enable them to become comfortable with them, for carers to become familiar with their particular needs, and to ensure their medicines are provided correctly. This was particularly important when the person receiving care had dementia.
“The regular small group of care workers provide a fantastic service. They are caring and professional with a chat as well. Don't make me feel I've lost my dignity.”
Healthwatch Newcastle respondent However, in reality, many people were seeing lots of different care workers. They also wanted better communication with the office of the care provider, which they said often shared poor quality information or were discourteous.
Healthwatch Newcastle shared what they heard and their recommendations via a report, and by speaking to commissioners about what people wanted.
Thanks to Healthwatch Newcastle’s work, most of the recommendations to improve services made in the report were incorporated into the new specification for home care services in Newcastle. Local people, including carers and those using the services, have been given more information about the support available, and their rights and choices.
Read Healthwatch Newcastle’s report ‘Spotlight on home care’.
Speak up and share your views
Services are changing all over the country. Make sure you have your say by speaking to your local Healthwatch.