Home care training gaps risk ‘fatal consequences’ for service users, says Unison

Union finds more than 1,000 care workers have not received proper training in dementia, administering medication or personal care tasks

Photo: Photofusion/Rex Features (posed by models)

More than 1,000 home care workers have not had adequate training in the tasks they are regularly required to carry out, a survey by Unison has found.

The survey found a quarter of care workers had not received training in dementia care, despite nearly 70% working with someone who has the condition.

Of the workers who had training in this area, only 52% believed it was good enough to help them care for people with dementia and only 41% received ‘on-going’ training.

On the frontline

“The worst situation I encountered was trying to help a lady with a catheter have a shower. Neither she nor I could work out a way to do it that did not leave her with a soaking wet catheter bag chafing against her leg. Maybe I should have taken it off?

But I didn’t have clue how the catheter was supposed to be strapped to her leg when I started, nor did the colleague who was supposed to be mentoring me.

It was several weeks before a district nurse showed me how the elastic bandage was supposed to be threaded through the catheter bag. Even when done right, this still wasn’t very comfortable for my client.”

Unison said the findings were ‘a cause for alarm’ due to the growing number of people living with dementia, many of whom are likely to need home care services.

‘Worrying findings’

The survey also found nearly a quarter of care workers had not had training in administering medication, despite having to give controlled doses of insulin or liquid morphine.

A further 59% had not been trained in attaching or changing a convene catheter, 52% had no stoma care training and 45% did not know how to change a catheter bag.

Over a third of care workers had not been shown how to carry out peg-feeding. Of those that had, 46% said their training was not good enough.

Dave Prentis, general secretary for Unison, said the lack of adequate training for home care workers could lead to fatal consequences for service users.

“The funding the government gives to councils for social care has been slashed since 2010, forcing many local authorities and private companies to skimp on training,” he said.

“It is a stark illustration of the lack of dignity that is being afforded to both care workers and the people who rely on home care services.”

‘Bare minimum’

Unison’s report on its findings also criticises the Care Certificate, the set of basic training standards introduced by government earlier this month, for ‘not going nearly far enough’ to address the problem.

“The certificate only covers basic induction into care, not the specialised training needed for things like stoma care and peg feeding,” the report said.

“As long as procurement is based on the cheapest provider, it is hard to see how many care providers will invest in a non-mandatory Care Certificate.”

The union is now calling for greater investment in home care to ensure service users get the care they deserve and care workers receive the training they need.

“Plans to integrate NHS and social care services are doomed to failure if we continue to have a social care system that treats home care workers with such contempt, and the people they care for with such disregard,” said Prentis.

The online survey was undertaken over a six week period in February and March 2015 and the 1020 respondents worked for employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

‘Grossly underfunded’

Colin Angel, policy and campaigns director at the UK Homecare Association (UKHCA), said Unison’s findings add weight to the argument that care must be adequately funded.

“The training of home care workers is fundamental to safe and effective services, particularly with the growing number of people with increasingly complex needs expected to remain at home, rather than live in institutionalised settings,” he said.

“UKHCA has repeatedly drawn attention to the risks posed by a grossly-underfunded care system dominated by councils who themselves continue to face severe spending constraints. The importance of an adequately trained and confident workforce is obvious, and should provide additional reflection for local councils funding care, and for the next government.”

Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), added: “Nothing determines the quality of a citizen’s experience of social care more than the dignity and respect they are afforded by those entering their homes and lives. Front line social care workers deserve to be trained, valued and remunerated in a way that is consistent with the quality of service that we rightly expect of them.”

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One Response to Home care training gaps risk ‘fatal consequences’ for service users, says Unison

  1. Gerald April 23, 2015 at 11:11 am #

    I am glad to see that Unison has highlighted the underfunding of this service and has detailed the problem with the tendering proceedure etc. but I cannot understand why they lay any blaim with the Providers when the whole proceedure was set up solely by the Local Authorities concerned who presented it in their typical “take it or leave it” way. This service was heralded as the best answer to all these awful Care Homes we all hear about , well when you compare reality with fiction ,please let Unison explain how two 15 min visits a day goes even remotely towards this promise this service is a farce and I believe the public is not being properly served by this system and thousands of our Elderly are beeing put at risk. Unison needs to tell their members at Town Hall just what a mess they have organised and not put all the blaim on the Private Sector, as they did with regards to Care Homes. Stop playing politics with Care and concentrate on delivering a good value service .