The Mirror Jan 17, 2015 23:53 By Pamela Owen
Whistleblower Gillian Demet says she was left with no choice but to resign from Sevacare who provide more than 4,000 care workers nationwide
A home-care worker today reveals she quit her job because she was only allowed to spend 15 MINUTES a time with frail pensioners.
Whistleblower Gillian Demet says she was left with no choice but to resign from Sevacare who provide more than 4,000 care workers nationwide.
Miss Demet, 62, said the cruel rule was putting patients’ lives at risk. “Where is the love, compassion and care that should be shown to each and every elderly person?,” she demanded.
“You couldn’t spend time with clients. There was no time to talk, to chat or to build friendships.
“The only way I could have carried on was by not showing the level of care I wanted. I was not prepared to do that.”
Incredibly, when the Sunday Mirror approached Ravi Bains, the CEO of Sevacare, he AGREED the 15-minute visits were unfair on clients and staff.
And he accused the Government of damaging the vital home care industry with unreasonable budget cuts.
Mr Bains admitted: “The allocation of resources to home care is inadequate, it is a concern we share with our staff.
“Our carers are dedicated and committed, we want to do more for our staff and clients. We are fully sympathetic but our hands are tied and it’s due to government funding.”
Miss Demet’s comments cast fresh light on how the crisis in home-care for elderly people is adding to the huge strain on hospitals, causing many OAPs to seek help in A&E units.
The number of elderly people being given state-funded care in their homes has dropped by a quarter in just five years, according to official figures.
A total of 1.3 million people receive state-funded home help, a care home place or hot meals – down from 1.7 million in 2007-08.
Charities said thousands of elderly and other vulnerable adults were being denied dignity and peace of mind because of council spending cuts.
Cash-strapped authorities nationwide are limiting provision with tougher rules on who is entitled to receive help.
Miss Demet survived cancer seven years ago and decided she wanted to work in healthcare to put something back, so she responded to a Sevacare advert.
Her previous jobs included being a personal trainer, painter and decorator and a hotel receptionist. She said: “None of that in any way prepared me for work as a carer. I had no experience whatsoever, but I got the job easily.”
After filling in a lengthy application she went on a three-day training course before shadowing another carer for 20 hours.
“I felt I was thrown in at the deep end,” she said. “The training just showed us the basics, but it was difficult when you have to start making visits on your own.
“These poor elderly people spend a lot of their days alone, but we couldn’t even spare a few minutes just to talk to them. You were on your way out of the door the moment you’d finished. They deserve more than that.”
Once in the job Miss Demet soon realised the sheer scale of her responsibilities. One typical shift saw her start work at 4.15pm, cramming in 14 visits by the end of her day at 9.45pm.
Another 14-hour day saw her start at 7am and finish after 9.30pm.
The number of home calls she was sent on meant she was only able to spend 15 minutes with most patients.
She said: “There were days when I had four appointments in an hour, 15 minutes for each, and that includes racing between them. It only gives you the time to do the bare minimum.”
Visits were often quite physically demanding.
Miss Demet explained: “Mornings were a killer. You would have to hoist them out of bed, undress them, hoist them into the shower, wash them, hoist them out, dry them, dress them, move them to the lounge, make them breakfast and give them their pills from blister packs.
“Once you’d done that you’d have to dash off to get to your next appointment.
“There’s no time to chat, to get to know them. A lot of these people were old and slow, it felt wrong treating them like that. There was no way you could complete the job properly in a few minutes.”
Miss Demet, of Salford, Greater Manchester, added: “I cared about the people I was visiting, but I just didn’t have the time to devote to them.”
She said staff felt pressured by head office, with them constantly on the phone when they were running late.
She said: “On the 14-hour days there was meant to be a two-hour break, but you could never make use of it. The only way to keep on time would be to cut corners. I wasn’t willing to do that.”
After just three weeks she quit the £6.70 per hour, minimum-wage position. She says the current system is unfair on staff and the elderly.
Miss Demet added: “It all boils down to money. The staff need to give more time to clients, but time costs money doesn’t it? I just became totally disillusioned. Talking to other people they felt the same, but people need jobs.”
She said the Government must increase funding for home care. She said: “The alternative is that all these people would have to go into residential care. That would cost taxpayers billions.”
And she believes staff deserve better conditions. She said: “Why aren’t carers paid a decent wage and given the time to spend with clients to do the job properly? It’s important work with vulnerable people.
“But after a few weeks I just thought I hope I never find myself in the situation where I have to rely on that sort of home care.”
Her concerns were shared by Mr Bains, who founded Sevacare from his garage in 1998.
He applauded Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham’s plan to put health and social care together.
Mr Bains said: “We need to give more weight to home care, due to the reduction in resources more and more people are going into A&E, this is something our movement predicted years ago.”
He said: “You can’t really provide care in 15 minutes. There isn’t the time for that cup of tea.
“Mr and Mrs Smith or Singh may have been waiting all day for that visit. It’s the social side we can’t deliver any more. Our hands are tied by commissioning practices. Give us more resources, fund home care adequately, and we will keep people out of hospital. Cuts were made to home care years ago and now we are paying the price for it.”
Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Adult social care funding is in crisis and it is vital for our elderly population that government urgently addresses this. Short visits should never be the sole basis of care, but sadly the rise in 15 minute visits is symptomatic of a system that continues to be chronically underfunded.”