Missed visits, no continuity and people are let down

The failings of the new home care system is putting lives at risk, claim staff.
The failings of the new home care system is putting lives at risk, claim staff.

Under-pressure care workers claim lives are being put at risk because of the lack of front-line staff and excessive and unachievable work loads.

It’s the latest revelation to hit Fife Council’s under-fire care service, following a wave of camplaints regarding personal care, since a new system of working was introduced.

Two care workers, who asked not to be identified fearing their jobs may be put at risk, told the Fife Free Press that increasing numbers of their colleagues are currently suffering from stress related sickness or are now choosing to leave the service all together.

“I love my job, I’ve done it for a number of years, but I know that while I’m doing my best, I am no longer being allowed to give the same level of care to those who people who rely on us, in some cases totally, to make their lives easier,” said one.

“Lives are being put at risk and someone is going to get seriously hurt before too long.”

“The public are being failed on a massive scale here, and that’s the fault of the new way of working that home care staff now have to adhere to,” said another.

Under the new system, staff use a mobile phone to log in and out of each visit, but often limits the carers knowing where their next call or client may be.

“We used to have a daily list of people we knew and visited on a regular basis,” the care worker explained. “That allowed us to build up a relationship with each person and know exactly what each of them needed from our visits.

“Now that continuity has gone out of the window. I often don’t know where I’m going from call to call and that impacts on those who need and rely on our care.”

And they both claim that the the new system is leaving some of those who require the most care in a vulnerable situation.

“There have been missed visits where vulnerable people are put at risk and I can confirm that being a Fife Council Homecare employee this happens on a daily basis,” the worker said.

“Emergency carers’ response times are 30 minutes but these are often not being met, sometimes calls are waiting up to an hour or two.

“The new Nightlink Service is constantly working short and using emergency carers, or outside agency staff to fill in the shortfall, it’s a shambles.

“Community Alarms is a paid response service and should be a priority for vulnerable users but staff employed to do that are being poached for Nightlink and Homecare leaving teams short.”

Asked what they thought would immediately improve the situation, both carers indicated a return to the old system that would, they say, ease pressures and allow carers to give better all round care.

“It would be beneficial if an outside agency came in and looked at the workload and give advice on how to improve or better the service that is being poorly ran,” one carer added.

With complaints mounting, Fife Council leader Councillor David Ross called for an urgent meeting with the director of health and social care and the chairman of the integrated joint board to discuss how best to tackle the growing concerns.

“Following the meeting we have taken steps to introduce a number of short-term steps that will ease the situation,” said Cllr Ross.

He added: “Most importantly we have just recruited an additional 62 care workers and are currently seeking to employ a further 25 in the coming weeks. We have also halted a further roll out of the new system to allow for what has already been introduced to take effect.

“Ultimately, we’re are required to deliver a full care service on increasingly limited resources and unless the Scottish Government provide more funding that is only set to continue.

“But we are not hiding behind that fact, we are addressing the needs of those people requiring care on a daily basis in order to improve the service.”

Changing absence levels not unusual

Care workers, who claim the new scheduling system is failing both carers staff and clients, have told the Fife Free Press that increasing numbers of employees are now suffering from stress, off sick or leaving the care service all together.

Responding to claims, Cindy Graham, service manager for Fife Council’s Home Care service, said: “It is not unusual for a service that delivers round-the-clock care for absence levels to fluctuate up and down.

“This can happen for a number of reasons and the business manages this effectively to ensure the welfare of both service users and staff.”