Council inquiry probes 15-minute homecare visits

  |  Published: Aug 26th 2015
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Homecare visits lasting 15 minutes can play a valuable role in the overall support packages for elderly and vulnerable people, a Buckinghamshire County Council inquiry has found. 

The visits can be appropriate where simple tasks are needed to be delivered, for example medication and welfare checks or providing a snack, it was concluded.

However, the 15-minute visits are not deemed suitable for the delivery of personal care such as washing and changing. Inquiry members were reassured that these shorter visits will not be used in this way in Buckinghamshire.

Councillors, acting in response to a national debate on the issue, gathered evidence by speaking to frontline staff and observing 27 care visits across the county between May to June.

And the conclusion was that, despite the concerns voiced nationally, the shorter visits can be sufficient in certain circumstances - particularly where they form part of a wider care package involving other, longer sessions during the day.

Meanwhile, the inquiry group was satisfied that carers are able, and are aware they are able to make the 15-minute visits longer where the time allocated is insufficient.

A new County Council policy was put in place at the end of last year for care managers and providers which sets out the guidelines for the type of tasks appropriate for 15-minute visits. The inquiry group has insisted that this must be fully applied.

Angela Macpherson, Chairman of the Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee, said: “Overall, the findings of our evidence gathering sessions were reassuring.

“Members of the committee were determined to see the care visits for themselves, and our primary concern was that people were being treated with dignity and helped to carry on living in their own homes with the correct amount of support.

“We were impressed with the quality of the care we witnessed, and concluded that 15-minute visits can, in some circumstances, have a place as part of a person’s overall care package with care being delivered in a dignified manner.”

Cllr Macpherson explained: “We understand the concerns nationally about ‘flying’ care visits that do not leave enough time for vulnerable people to be looked after.

“However, 15-minute visits can and do work in the context of, say, a day in which there have been longer visits or when there are simple tasks to be carried out, such as medication checks or providing a snack or a drink or a trip to the toilet.

“The service users can benefit from having carers drop in frequently to do certain tasks.

”What we don’t want to happen, though, is for these shorter visits to be used for more intimate personal care, as this will compromise people’s dignity.”

The committee’s key recommendations include:

• That the County Council puts in place increased measures to ensure regular monitoring of the processes and compliance with the new 15-minute policy;

• That the ‘change request process’ – whereby carers, families or service users can request changes in allocated time – needs to be analysed and monitored to ensure the service users’ needs are always met in a dignified way;

• That Care staff should be paid for all of their hours work including travel time between visits. This will ensure dignity for the workforce and support dignity in car to improve retention, thereby improving quality of care through consistency.

The report and recommendations will go to the Council’s Cabinet on September 7. To read the full report visit

For more information follow us @BucksDemocracy 

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