My mum’s carers are like F1 pit stop crew

Mabel McGuire finds the flying visits by care workers alarming. Picture: Lesley Martin
Mabel McGuire finds the flying visits by care workers alarming. Picture: Lesley Martin
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BELEAGUERED council home carers have been likened to a “F1 pit stop crew” after it is revealed a 93-year-old woman is being washed, changed and put to bed in just FIVE minutes.

Frail Mabel McGuire is supposed to received a 45-minute visit every morning and night under her home care and support agreement with the 
council seven days a week.

However we can reveal hard pressed carers spend just ten minutes on average with Mabel – and as little as five to seven minutes according to time sheets which log the details of each visit.

Critics – aghast at the fleeting noon and night dash-and-go appointments – have compared them to the sort of whistle-stop tyre changes you get in motorsport.

Mabel’s son Peter has now been joined by leading patients and human rights organisations in hitting out at the “inhuman” standard of care his mum has been receiving at their Pleasance home.

He stormed: “I’ve been arguing with them for months over this. She’d be lucky if they spent 20 minutes with her in total each day.

“They’re like a Formula 1 pit crew they way they handle her. They come flying in the door and transfer her from room to room in a matter of seconds. They then set about her and change her pads and clothing and give her a wash before they race out again.

“My mother is 93-years-old and is really shook up after each visit. I’ve heard the carers on the phone on numerous occasions being hassled to get to the next job.”

Mabel – who has suffered two strokes and underwent cancer surgery two years ago – is unlikely to be the only pensioner handled in such a way.

In a city undergoing a drawn-out ageing population boom, and with care workers increasingly stretched, Mabel’s case could become 
depressingly common.

Peter, 57, who suffers from mobility issues, shared with us the timesheets that lay bare the scant amount of time staff are able to devote to his mum.

One – filled in during a July 7 visit – shows carers arrived at her home at 7.58pm and left just seven minutes later at 8.05pm. It reads: “Assisted Mabel into nightclothes, cream applied, pad changed, personal care given, transferred into bed, light off.”

Another – from July 17 – lasted just five minutes. It says: “Assisted Mabel through to the bedroom, pad changed, freshen up, nightdress on, cream applied.”

The shocking revelations have sparked a storm of outrage.

Margaret Watt, of the Scottish Patients Association, hit out and said: “At the age of 93 this woman is entitled to dignity and respect, how dare they do this to her? There is no way you can carry out those duties in those times.

“This woman must be left traumatised after each visit.”

She added: “This is happening to a lot of other people too where carers are racing in and out of the house. We should not be paying them for this service.”

This view is echoed by Scottish Labour MSP Sarah Boyack who said: “Elderly and vulnerable people deserve the best standard of care. That has to be the key consideration in the scheduling of visits. The suggestion that care can be delivered in seven minutes is truly shocking.

“This shows the immense pressure that healthcare professionals are under to meet increasing demands on their time. I hope the fact that this family have highlighted that people are being given such treatment will lead to a change.”

As of April, there are 4130 people receiving home care services from the city council at a cost of £46.7 million annually.

The council employs approximately 1100 carers and delivers 25 per cent of the home care service across the city. It is understood that recruitment is currently on-going and that during 2012/13 there was a 10 per cent increase in home care hours provided across the city.

However, in the last year, the council received 33 complaints regarding carers; 21 of which were upheld or partially upheld about home care services.

Those who feel their concerns or complaints have not been adequately addressed can be reviewed by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

In 2011/12 the ombudsman dealt with seven social work complaints involving the council social work department, down from 21 the previous year 2010/11.

Figures relating to 2012/13 will be made available at the end of August.

Leading elderly and human rights organisations have called for those suffering similar experiences to come forward. An Age Concern Scotland spokesman said: “We would like to see the care provider being held to account.

“We would advise anyone aware of a similar situation to make use of the council’s complaints procedure.”

And a spokeswoman from the Scottish Human Rights Commission said: “Human rights and human dignity should be central to everyday health and social care practice wherever it is delivered. In our work we have seen how important it is that everyone involved in the provision and delivery of care understands human rights.”

One health care worker said staff would love to be able to spend more time with the elderly people they’re meant to be looking after but the pressures of the job just don’t make that possible. She said workers find themselves “whizzing” from appointment to appointment.

She said: “There just seems to be a growing number of people to see and less time to do it in. The management need to cut their costs too, so people aren’t replaced when they leave. It’s very difficult. We work long hours with little by the way of reward. We do, however, build up relationships with the people we see.

“For some we might be the only human contact they have in a day. We’d like to spend more time with people, but the pressures of the job mean it’s just not possible.”

We revealed in November last year how Edinburgh is facing a population explosion over the next 20 years, with authorities warning services will be under immense strain as the city’s population swells to 600,000.

A report produced by Edinburgh City Council has projected the 
Capital will have the highest population growth of anywhere in Scotland, hitting the projected residents’ total by 2033. Births are expected to outpace deaths by an average of 900 a year from 2010 to 2025, combining with annual migration of 4200 people to Edinburgh. The two factors are expected to fuel a population boom far higher than originally expected.

Last night a council spokeswoman said the care plan Mabel receives is to be reviewed. She said: “The quality of care is a priority for us, which includes 
consistency of carers and punctuality. We have a number of mechanisms for monitoring performance including electronic monitoring of both the in-house and externally provided service. We also have a complaints service which is taken very seriously.

“Care staff attend Mrs McGuire’s home twice a day to provide personal care services and do not leave until they are satisfied that she has received the assistance she needs, as agreed in her care plan. We are aware of Mr McGuire’s concerns and have made arrangements to review his mother’s care plan in consultation with him.”

Since we highlighted Mabel’s case with council chiefs her timesheets have shown a dramatic improvement – with carers now spending upwards of 20 minutes on each visit – but still well short of the 45-minute-per-visit she is entitled to.

Union wants short visits to be banned

UNION leaders have urged Scottish councils to ditch care on the cheap and ban short home visits.

Unison Scotland hit out over commissioning 15-minute home care visits to elderly and vulnerable people.

A Freedom of Information request shows 28 Scottish councils commission that length of visit. Unison hopes to see a Scottish Government ban and wants councils to sign up to their Ethical Home Care Charter.

Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby said: “Austerity cuts are piling pressure onto an over-stretched system but it is entirely wrong that in a supposedly civilised society councils are commissioning 15-minute home care appointments. Any member of the public can understand that 15 minutes is not enough to provide even the most basic care, let alone to very frail clients. People with dementia also find the rush of such short visits particularly distressing.

“We want councils to sign up to our Ethical Home Care Charter and to say that the time allocated to visits will be matched to the needs of the clients. There should be an initial review of all visits under 30 minutes.

“Unison believes 15-minute visits exemplify a care on the cheap system, when we should be providing quality public services which ensure respect and dignity for the most vulnerable.”

This view is echoed by health professionals – who have warned Mabel’s type of experience could be detrimental to health. One city GP, who did not wish to be identified, said OAPs should not feel they are an expensive afterthought – “a commodity to be cleaned and packaged as quickly as possible”.

She said: “How would that make anyone feel? This kind of whistle-stop care, from a well-being and psychological point of view could actually be extremely detrimental.”