A new report following research into the homecare market has highlighted the need for commissioners to increase average length of visits to improve standards.
Access Group’s Hidden Dynamics 2019 report, produced in conjunction with United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) is based on data from more than 4,700 registered care locations in the UK which provide 64 million hours of care per year.
The research into the homecare market found that in all regions of England excluding the South West, homecare providers were seeing extremely small margins or even losses on their services once the operating costs were taken into account. The study concludes that short lengths of visits create inefficiencies and are associated with lower ratings for quality of care.
A number of leading organisations, such as Age UK and the Care Quality Commission have warned of the links between poor experience of care and inadequate visit lengths that cause care workers to be rushed.
In September 2015, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended homecare visits should not normally be shorter than 30 minutes, so that workers have time to do their job without being rushed or compromising the dignity or wellbeing of the person who uses services. However, Access Group found that this has become the standard, rather than a baseline. 30-minute visits were found to be the most frequent length, accounting for 65% of all state-funded visits.
Analysis of providers as a whole shows that those that deliver a greater proportion of their overall provision as 60-minute visits are more likely to be rated ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Steve Sawyer, Managing Director of Access Group’s health and social care division, called for increased funding to enable providers to offer higher standards of care. He said, 'Our report shows clearly the link between funding and the quality of care the state-funded homecare sector can provide. Given the pressure on local authorities, it is little surprise that councils are forced to stretch their resources in order to reach as many people as possible. However, this research clearly shows that short visits are not sustainable and, with some councils still commissioning visits as short as 15 minutes, it means that mistakes are more likely and safety is compromised.'
The study also suggests that homecare providers which were able to increase their revenue through higher fees are better placed to invest in more experienced staff and retain their workforce. The analysis found that 34% of Outstanding providers had an average age of staff of between 50 and 55.
Andrew Heffernan, Membership Director of UKHCA commented on the impact the report’s findings were having in reality. He said, 'The data gathered and analysed...gives real insight into some of the key factors driving financial sustainability, levels of quality, and workforce retention for homecare services. This insight will help homecare providers benchmark their position against the aggregated market data in the report and focus on the areas which can have the biggest impact for their business, staff and people using their services.'
Steve added, 'We hope that this report makes clear the need for changes to how the homecare sector is funded. It is clear that a fairer rate for care services leads to a more sustainable care provider and better quality care for the service user.'