Councils 'still sanctioning 15-minute social care visits'

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More than a fifth of councils in England are still commissioning 15-minute social care visits, despite the Government agreeing half an hour should be the minimum standard, it was reported.

Around 16,000 people are still receiving "flying visits" by carers for needs such as washing, dressing and eating, an investigation by ITV News and the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability found.

Ninety-five of the 152 councils in England responded to a Freedom of Information request, of whom 34 admitted they were still commissioning 15-minute visits for personal care, ITV News said.

Ten councils which admitted using 15-minute visits for personal care said they commission more than 20% of visits in 15 minutes or less, while one council said over 40% of its visits fall into that category, despite concerns over their use.

In April 2015 the Government signed up to new statutory guidance from National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) after it concluded compassionate and appropriate home care could not adequately be provided in less than 30 minutes.

And in November Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said great strides had been made in trying to lift the standards of care, saying he "totally disapproves" of 15-minute visits.

He admitted the health and social care system was facing its "most challenging period financially since the founding of the NHS", but said the Government would try to protect those "very high standards of care".

ITV News said three health think-tanks suggested that five years of cuts to local authority budgets had left a £1.9 billion funding gap in social care.

But Mr Hunt told the programme more money had been found and councils needed to do better, saying: "It makes me very angry because how can you possibly look after someone's care needs in just 15 minutes?

"If you look at the pressure at our hospitals caused by some of these people ending up in A&E, it's the worst place for them to be, especially if you who are old, confused, or have dementia.

"That is why we introduced a package in December to ease the pressure. I don't want to pretend it's easy but we must not compromise on giving decent basic care for people who need it."

Neil Heslop, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: "Councils should be observing official guidance and putting an end to 15-minute personal care visits for good.

"The practical consequences of these flying visits is that people are having to make choices - do you go to the loo or do you eat or drink. That's a choice that nobody in the UK in 2107 should have to face."