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 Joseph Bower, Care Manager of Martlets Care (whose profits support the Martlets Hospice), comments on the guidance released recently that carers should spend at least 30 minutes on home visits to older people in England as part of a new gold standard for services.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance regarding the duration of care calls follows reports of carers making visits of 15 minutes and less.

NICE recommends a package of measures, which also includes ensuring people’s carers are not changed too frequently. It acknowledged extra money would be needed to fund the measures.

Home care covers services provided in people’s homes, such as help with washing, dressing and eating. About 500,000 people in England currently receive home care – with over 70% of those getting contributions from councils.

In 2013, charity Leonard Cheshire Disability revealed that in England, 60% of councils arrange 15-minute calls. Leonard Cheshire sought a ban on what it termed ‘the scandal of flying 15-minute visits’, saying that such appointments could ‘force disabled people to choose whether to go thirsty or to go to the toilet’.

From our experience, 15 minutes is often not enough time for someone to deliver good quality care. The Care Quality Commission is trying to drive up standards on the one hand, while on the other hand, budgetary limitations are pressing local authorities to trim visits as much as possible.

I don’t support a total ban on 15-minute visits, as we know that sometimes this is all it takes, for example, to deliver medication. But what our clients tell us time and again is that good quality care provision and wellbeing is as much about making that extra bit of time for someone as it is about professional efficiency.

In addition, one of the main causes of the problem concerning changing carers is that, all too often, these staff members are not sufficiently trained, monitored, supported or rewarded. If care staff are treated poorly, it is only a matter of time before they move to a different care provider. The government needs to place more emphasis on the training and development of care staff.

The true ‘scandal of 15-minute calls’ is that organisations are still lobbying to change this practice, some two years after Leonard Cheshire highlighted the issue.