Experiences of homecare services

August 24, 2017

A new report from Healthwatch England opens the door on people's experiences of homecare services and has discovered four themes for providers, commissioners and the regulator to consider.

Healthwatch England has analysed the experiences of 3,415 domiciliary care users, their families and frontline staff across 52 local areas between August 2015 and June 2017 to collate its new report on experiences of homecare services. It comes two weeks after Healthwatch's report into life in a care home.

Most people had positive things to say about their homecare. Older people, in particular, said that one of the most positive things about homecare is that it enables them to remain in their own home and to maintain as much independence as possible.

However, Healthwatch also discovered four themes across its research that will be of interest to those who commission, provide and regulate social care services:

  • Care planning – People frequently reported that staff were unfamiliar with their clients’ care plans. In cases where it was a staff member’s first visit to a client, insufficient time was often allowed to enable them to read the care plan. A care user speaking with Healthwatch Blackpool said, 'Unless they have attended before they do not know what has to be done.'
  • Skills and qualifications – Many of those who spoke about their experiences said they valued the dedication and experience of those sent to care for them. However, others lacked experience and basic skills, such as being able to wash someone or make them breakfast. One resident in her 80s told Healthwatch Bradford that one of her care workers was unable to boil an egg or make the bed, while another person said care workers needed to be taught 'home care common sense'.
  • Consistency and continuity – All local Healthwatch found problems with staff coming at different times and even missing appointments. Healthwatch Staffordshire found a number of people reporting that it felt like care packages were designed to meet the needs of the service provider rather than the service user.
  • Communication and feedback – Providers need to look to make greater and more regular use of feedback to address problems early and prevent minor issues turning into complaints. Several people who spoke with Healthwatch highlighted the lack of communication they had with the organisations providing their care. Healthwatch Bucks found that all communication with clients of one provider was run through frontline staff. This created problems when staff were on holiday or were off sick.

One in seven of those who responded to Healthwatch Newcastle’s survey said they had experienced medication being missed due to the home care provider, with one in six stating they felt the provision of medication was either partly safe or never safe.

Due to the importance of this issue, Healthwatch Newcastle secured agreement from the City Council to ensure that providers must be compliant with the latest NICE guidance on medicine management in new home care contracts.

The very nature of care at home means that it’s not always easy to find out what people think of it, making it probably the area of health and care where commissioners, regulators and policy-makers need the most help collecting intelligence.

Although this report highlights a number of concerns in home care, it is encouraging that many local Healthwatch have already had their evidence used by local commissioners to inform the development of new service specifications and contracts.

The Healthwatch network will share the findings of this briefing on experiences of homecare across the health and social care sector, as part of a wider programme to encourage greater use of user feedback.


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