Older people are being put at serious risk from missed and rushed home care visits, an investigation by Which? has found.
The consumer rights charity asked 30 older people to keep a week-long diary of their experiences of home care and uncovered numerous examples of people receiving poor quality care.
In one instance a woman was left alone for hours in the dark while another was left without a walking frame and so could not go to the bathroom.
Another reported that he was not given his vital diabetic medication. The son of the man told Which?: “When I voiced my concerns to the care agency I was just told to find another agency.”
There were, however, some who told of care workers going the extra mile in their diaries. One care recipient’s son said: “My mum’s carer does things without being asked, such as tidying up and will do extra things like brushing her shoes. Mum says she’s a ‘real carer’.”
Which? also surveyed 926 care recipients and their relatives. Nearly half said visits had been missed at least once in the past six months and 62% of those had not been warned in advance.
Richard Lloyd, the executive director of Which?, said the findings were disgraceful. “The government can no longer claim to be shocked as report after report highlights the pitiful state of care for older people,” he said. “If they are serious about ensuring vulnerable people are treated with dignity, then we must see real action because every day they delay is another day older people risk being neglected.”
The report follows last year's Equality and Human Rights Commission probe into home care, which found widespread breaches of human rights in the sector. The Care Quality Commission is due to start a national review of home care services next month, based on an inspection of 250 providers.
The United Kingdom Home Care Association, which represents more than 2,000 domiciliary care agencies, said local authority commissioners that put price before quality were to blame.
The association said that the early results of a national survey it is conducting show that 77% of home care agencies believe councils consider price as more important than the quality of care and 26% say local authorities regularly ask them to carry out visits without enough time for dignity to be maintained.
“The report from Which? supports our growing concern over state-funded homecare,” said Mike Padgham, the chair of the association. “People and their families must be confident that they will receive dignified and effective care.”
However, the Local Government Association blamed a lack of funding from government and said councils were "committed to doing the very best for people in later life".
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