Exclusive: One in five English councils still commissioning 15-minute social care visits

'People are having to make choices - do you go to the loo or do you eat or drink?' Credit: PA

One in five councils in England have admitted to ITV News that they are still commissioning 15 minute social care visits despite the government agreeing to a minimum standard of half an hour.

In April 2015 ministers signed up to new statutory guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, after it concluded appropriate and compassionate home care could not be provided in under 30 minutes.

For the 873,000 people in England who rely on social care, that was supposed to be a fresh start. Instead, an investigation by ITV News and Leonard Cheshire Disability has found evidence that what you get depends increasingly on where you live.

A Freedom of Information request was sent to all 152 councils in England and 95 responded. 34 admitted they are still commissioning 15-minute visits for personal care.

It means over 16,311 people are still receiving so-called "flying visits" for intimate needs such as washing, dressing, and eating.

Ten councils which admitted to using 15 minute visits for personal care said they commission over 20% of their visits in 15-minutes or less. One council said over 40% of its visits now fall into that category despite the concern surrounding their use.

Leonard Cheshire Disability's Chief Executive Neil Heslop told ITV News: "Councils should be observing official guidance and putting an end to 15 minute personal care visits for good. The practical consequences of these flying visits is that people are having to make choices - do you go to the loo or do you eat or drink. That's a choice that nobody in the UK in 2107 should have to face".

John Fogg, who has terminal cancer, and his wife Dorothy who is losing her sight and mobility, endured months of 15 minute visits, before Oldham Council switched their care provider.

Mr Fogg described how some carers would rush to fill out paperwork even as they made him a sandwich. He said, "You can't describe it. You just feel like nobody cares at all. Like we have gone past our sell by date."

After 5 years of government cuts to local authority budgets, the UK's three leading health think tanks estimate there is now a £1.9 billion gap between what is needed to fund social care in England and the money actually available.

But the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt insists more money has been found and that some councils need to do better. Responding to our investigation, he said: "It makes me very angry because how can you possibly look after someone's care needs in just 15 minutes. If you look at the pressure at our hospitals caused by some of these people ending up in A&E, it's the worst place for them to be, especially if you who are old, confused, or have dementia.

"That is why we introduced a package in December to ease the pressure. I don't want to pretend it's easy but we must not compromise on giving decent basic care for people who need it."