Over a quarter of a million people are estimated to live in care homes in Britain, while 673,000 people are supported by social care services to continue living independently within their homes. This is why social care has been a major focus for Healthwatch during the last year.
People told local Healthwatch that some care providers deliver their social care services without listening to what people who use them actually want. They also want to be more involved in decisions that affect their lives. Conversations with people using social care services indicate a number of areas where their experiences could be better.
1. Lack of staff training and high turnover can lead to poor care
People are grateful for the help they receive from their care workers. However, many have raised concerns about high staff turnover and a lack of training, as well as the use of agency workers, particularly when it comes to home care. They told local Healthwatch that these factors can result in poor care.
People said that care workers don’t always turn up and are often late or rushed during appointments. Some can’t do basic tasks, such as cooking breakfast or making the bed. We also heard of people being visited by 20 different care workers in a single week, meaning they were always seeing somebody who was unfamiliar with their care plan.
"Sometimes they give me a shower, but most of the time they haven’t got the time to give me one, so I go a couple of weeks without one and that is not right, I feel dirty.”
(Patient story shared with Healthwatch Redcar and Cleveland)
2. Services don’t always recognise that care homes are people’s homes
The best residential services are the ones that focus on enabling people to continue living as if they were still in their own home. Although local Healthwatch heard examples of residents in care homes being supported to live as full a life as possible, people also said that some services did not meet their needs.
Issues ranged from cleanliness and decor, to care homes not providing enough activities to help people stay healthy, active and connected to their community. Local Healthwatch visits found that the quality of care can vary not only between homes but also within the same home, with too few homes getting the basics right every time.
3. People in care homes struggle to access primary care services
Visiting a doctor or dentist can be difficult for people living in care homes. In some parts of England, people told local Healthwatch that it can be easier to get access to a hairdresser than a dentist if you are a care home resident. People who have poor mobility or dementia struggle to get to a high street practice, and home visits are not always available. This means people who can’t leave their care home do not have access to primary care services.
“The care home has 40 residents, at least half of whom are bed ridden and may require dental care. My father has complex health needs, and it is not so easy to predict whether he will be fit and able to travel to a dentist’s surgery and be prepared to wait to be seen. All of it would be a hugely distressing experience for all concerned especially as we would have no foreknowledge of when or if my father would be seen by the emergency dentist.”
(Patient story shared with Healthwatch Derby)