Social care system 'in crisis' with patients receiving 15-minute visits

Some 20,000 people received social care visits of as little as 15 minutes, fresh research has revealed.

Disability charity Leonard Cheshire said the figures showed a "care system in crisis," warning that the number of patients receiving such "flying" visits is likely much higher.

At least 18,875 people received personal care visits of 15 minutes or less for support with intimate care in 2016/17, based on data obtained from councils.

"As we approach the long-awaited Government green paper on social care, the situation is tough in the sector," said Neil Heslop, Leonard Cheshire's chief executive.

"Inadequate flying visits are indicative of a care system in crisis and, coupled with Personal Independence Payment shortcomings, have rendered disabled people an increasingly embattled, beleaguered community, singled out for punitive measures.

"We will continue to campaign for the critical long-term funding that is needed to transform the provision of care and improve the quality of thousands of lives."

The charity has campaigned against 15-minute visits to support people with basic needs such as washing, dressing and eating, saying it can deprive people of dignified and compassionate care.

Statutory guidance which came into force in 2015 said such short visits "are not appropriate" for people who need support with intimate care needs.

"Rushed visits cause much distress to elderly and disabled people, and unnecessary stress to the care workers trying to look after them," said Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea.

"Some care workers report being allocated just a single minute for a visit.

"This is an obscene way to treat the most vulnerable people in our communities. The Government must get to grips with the growing care scandal now."

The Leonard Cheshire data, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, showed people were receiving personal care visits of no more than 15 minutes across 15% of councils in England. In Scotland the figure was 31%, while in Wales the figure was 27%.

"Some care workers report being allocated just a single minute for a visit." Credit: PA

"As a person living with a disability and also maintaining a high-pressured professional job, having sufficient time for my full-time day care calls is essential," said Raymond Lang, an academic with cerebral palsy.

"They enable me to maintain my dignity and independence, as well as being empowered to make a significant contribution to society.

James Taylor, head of policy and public affairs at disability charity Scope, said around a third of all people who receive social care are disabled, and they account for half the budget.

"These figures put the paltry social care funding settlement in to sharp focus," he said.

"Social care provides the critical support that many disabled people need to live. Without it they can become isolated and end up in A&E.

"We urgently need a care system that is fully funded and works for disabled people."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "It is unacceptable for home visits to be rushed, as every person with a disability deserves compassionate and high-quality care."