MORE SALFORD CARE CHOAS
An elderly Ordsall lady leans back in her chair and sighs, "I wasn't too bad, they only missed four or five visits of mine. But there were cases of people left in their own urine…"
Last December we reported how Salford's reorganisation of its care for over 1,400 of Salford's older residents who receive home visits was in chaos (see here). Salford Council's Adult Services got rid of 15 out of 17 Salford based companies, replacing them with seven companies, most of which were from outside Salford.
One of those companies, Homecare Support - which won its contract over locally based Salford companies to deliver home visits and care to 133 elderly people in the Ordsall and Seedley areas - has been criticised by both service users and carers. It's also had almost 200 `alerts' – or breaches of care - against its name.
"There were 180 'alerts' connected to the service provided by Homecare Support" a Salford Council spokesperson told us last month. "Homecare Support took on the contract …on 1 November 2010. By January 2011 we had received 125 alerts, many as a result of missed calls. Of these, 103 occurred in November. Ten occurred in January when a senior did not cover the absence of a carer who called in sick. We are currently continuing to monitor 14 individuals to be absolutely sure that the quality of care is appropriate."
We are still unsure as to what the remaining 55 alerts related to. But the previous figures alone paint a disturbing picture of the level of care dispensed by the company.
The fact that five months after Homecare Support has taken over looking after our elderly citizens, 14 of them - or 10 per cent of total clients under their care - are still being monitored surely raises cause for concern.
Paul Murphy, 44, a care worker for four years quit his post with Homecare Support after just four months with the newly installed company, describing the situation as "a complete farce".
Paul lists a string of errors including missed visits, people not getting their medication or being left on their own for hours on end.
"The most common thing to happen was carers being sent to the same visit, so sometimes I would arrive and there would be two, even three carers, for one person - that often meant that somebody else would be missing a visit" he explains "When two carers were required, sometimes one was sent, so you would phone in to a so-called `response unit'…
"You tell them the problem and they would say 'Right okay move on to the next visit it's been logged', without any solution whatsoever" he adds "So if somebody needed moving and it was a two person job they would just record the incident, but that person would not be moved until the next visit."
The other recurring problem was wrong information on the care plans for clients.
"Service users were getting the wrong care due to errors on care plans, and after about two months they had to bring in somebody from outside to review them" Paul says "The rotas were as clear as mud and that meant people were missing visits and medication."
One colleague of Paul's had five service users who missed visits within one week period… "That meant a service user missing their medication and another who took their medication all at once" he says "Another incident involved a man whose electric had blown, leaving him sat in the dark until I arrived.
"I logged it but when I spoke to the next of kin to see if she had dealt with the repair to ensure it didn't happen again, she told me that nobody from Home Care Support had contacted her - as they should have done - and she was unaware of any problem."
Carers have also had their time with elderly people reduced by a quarter, from the previous twenty minutes to a mere fifteen.
"We were told that we had fifteen minutes to wash and dress an elderly couple" Paul says "And two men jobs were cut down to one man. When we queried it, we were told that the Council will only pay for one carer."
Salford Council claims that it now has an 'electronic monitoring system' in place for their staff to log in and out, to `safeguard' against missed visits.
However that system is little more than an answer machine that logs code numbered calls from the landlines of the service users. Where this system falls down is where the often elderly service user does not have a landline phone or simply will not allow the carer to use their phone.
"The problem is that if there is nobody at the other end of the line it goes to automated service" says Paul "And not all service users have phones or were happy to let us use their phones."
Service user Anita Calder confirmed the system's shortcomings: "Carers do phone in to the office from my landline but it is far from a perfect system as there is one carer who comes who doesn't make the call because she said she has not been yet given a log-in number. This after three weeks.
"I can gladly say that I have been in receipt of all my visits on time but I am aware of the great unease and dissatisfaction amongst the carers who I know are too frightened to speak out" she adds "I am also speaking out for the many service users who I know have received less than appropriate care who for many reasons, unlike me, are unable to raise issues affecting their care with Salford social services and the care companies."
Salford Council replies:
"The transfer of domiciliary care contracts to some of the new care providers did not happen as smoothly as we would have liked. Our safeguarding processes in Salford use a system of 'alerts' to identify issues which may need further investigation as actual referrals. Where for example a visit has been missed by a domiciliary agency we have insisted that the care provider treat this as a safeguarding issue and inform us immediately.
"We insisted on this extra measure so that we can monitor visits and be absolutely clear about the actual level of support being provided. In addition, we have also insisted that the agencies use 'electronic monitoring systems' for their staff to log in and out - giving us clear evidence of whether a visit has been completed or not. This means that any missed visits are now being logged and has added an extra layer to the safeguarding work we do.
"The level of missed visits has substantially reduced since Christmas and we are now satisfied with the progress being made. We take our responsibility for ensuring individuals health and safety very seriously and since the change of contracts have conducted a full review of the package of care for every individual, in many cases in face to face visits with clients and their families. In some cases we took the extra step of providing care to people from our intermediate care service in the short term, wherever we felt this may be necessary.
"We remain committed to ensuring that the service now being delivered meets the standards both we and local people expect. There has been a marked improvement in the quality of service provided by Homecare Support, checked out through the individual service user and their families meetings."
Trevor Morris, managing Director of Homecare Support adds:
"Homecare Support acknowledges that when we assumed the contract in Salford in November that there were a number of issues which affected the quality of care delivered to service users.
We have worked closely with the Council, carers, service users and their families to bring the level of care up to the highest standards but acknowledge that a tranche of the transferred workforce has caused unneccessary disruption to the service.
The company is committed to Salford and to delivering the highest quality of care to Salford residents and we are confident in having any remaining outstanding issues resolved to the satisfaction of our users as soon as possible."
However, almost five months after Homecare Support first took on the contract to care for our elderly citizens, 10% of them are still having to be "monitored"…
We have asked for an interview with Councillor John Warmisham, Leader Member for Adult Services on at least five separate occasions but this has not been forthcoming.
Salford Council's Health Wellbeing and Social Care Scrutiny committee meets on 23rd March to get an "Update on the changes to the care contracts including issues raised since the changeover"…
Part 2 click here