Families feel ignored and frustrated with “disjointed” care services

Healthwatch Sheffield has been listening to families who use home careHealthwatch Sheffield has been listening to families who use home care
Healthwatch Sheffield has been listening to families who use home care
Sheffield families say one of the biggest problems with social care is a lack of communication between services and a “disjointed” system.

Relatives want services to be joined up more efficiently so they don’t have to repeat information to different people, says a report by Healthwatch Sheffield.

The independent body produced a wide-ranging report into home care and found families feel ignored and frustrated.

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One person said: “When I tried to phone, they always say the person I want to speak to is unavailable. There is no response to emails. Even if you go to the top no-one responds.”

Another person said: “Carers don’t always listen to family carers even though they know the needs of the person being cared for.”

Healthwatch said: “We decided to shine a light on communication because it was a consistent feature of negative experiences of home care and mattered to people in a variety of ways.

“In a discussion at a focus group, the vast majority of family carers agreed that the biggest issue with social care was communication between services.

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People said the system was very disjointed, especially between health and social care. They called for the system to be joined up more efficiently so they didn’t have to repeat information to different services.

“This echoes what the Care Quality Commission found when it reviewed the health and social care system in Sheffield, in that people reported ‘a fragmented approach to service provision’ which meant they had to tell their story multiple times.”

Some families also felt excluded when it came to making decisions about their relative’s care.

The report added: “Some families felt they should have been more involved in decisions about their relative’s care which also affected them.

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“For example, a family told us they had been asked to look after their relative in their home without being consulted and another person was advised to take early retirement to care for their parents.

“During a focus group we learned that families didn’t feel they had the chance to have any input during the process of applying for Personal Independence Payments, despite feeling they had more knowledge of their relative’s needs than the decision-making panel.”

Healthwatch also found having no or little contact with home care companies other than through care workers could be “problematic”.

“People may need to discuss an aspect of organising care that care workers don’t deal with, or they might want to report an issue with the conduct of a care worker.

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“Furthermore, some family carers reported that home care providers and care workers were not proactive in asking for and using their knowledge of their relative’s needs.

“This mirrors findings at a national level – the CQC identified a lack of involvement of family or carers as a key concern in relation to the care and welfare of people using home care in their report published in 2013.”

Healthwatch wants to see improvements so it’s easier to make a complaint. It says home care companies should have a named person dealing with complaints and target response times. Relatives could also be asked about complaints satisfaction through surveys.

Sheffield Council should work with families to improve the process of making a complaint. And home care companies should consider holding regular drop-in days where people can give feedback in person.