Campaigners have called on Sheffield City Council to ‘come clean’ about plans to combine two night care services into one, saying it will negatively affect patients and staff.
The current services are separated by the Night Time Visiting Service, run by the council, and the Roaming Nights Care, operated by Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group.
Both provide support during the night with pressure care, personal care and toileting, with two care workers travelling together to visit people across the city.
The plans would see both of these close and resources combined for a joint Care at Night service, run by both the council and SCCG.
But members of Sheffield Save Our NHS have raised concerns for users of the service and staff.
Mike Simpkin, of Sheffield Save Our NHS, said the change was worrying but the ‘devil lay in the details’.
“Night care is an essential service for some of our most vulnerable citizens and contributes to keeping people out of residential care and hospitals,” he said.
“Yet the proposals do appear to put the service at risk at a time when the extent and quality of services for older people both in Sheffield and across England are coming under increasing criticism.
“The paper presents reasonable arguments for unifying both the commissioning and provision of the two service and points to some potential advantages for patients.”
He said the current services seem to be working well but was concerned the council’s report did not reveal how much would be saved in the process, or how savings would be achieved, despite the council saying it was not a cost-cutting exercise.
Mr Simpkin added it might be unsettling for the workforce when staff were transferred, the rigorous monitoring proposed in the report might make working conditions more difficult and staff wages may even be affected due to the reduction in rounds.
He added: “The paper also refers to workshops and consultations but nowhere says explicitly that the proposals were supported by the patients, relatives and staff attending the consultations.
“Indeed one prospective collaborator, South Yorkshire Housing Association, withdrew from a proposal to work on co-creating the service.”
“As these proposals stand, they undermine the delivery of what, from patients' points of view, appears to be an effective service.
“The Council and the CCG should come clean about how their prospective savings are to be achieved and the extent to which their proposals are externally supported before any final decision is taken.”
In the report, Jayne Ludlam, executive director for people services, said: “No individuals will have their existing service reduced or ended due to the new contract.
“The service provider for at least some individuals may change, depending on the outcome of the tender, however it is deemed preferable to communicate any changes once a conclusive outcome is known, rather than create any unnecessary concern or distress by sharing partial information.”
Ms Ludlam added that any potential savings from reducing the number of rounds from six to five will be put in reserves in case an extra round is needed and claimed no patient would be negatively affected by the change.
She added: “There is no anticipated overall negative impact on the population in the long term. There may be some short term disruption to individuals should their care company not be successful in the tender, however in such circumstances, it is normal for workers to transfer to work for the new provider under TUPE regulations; so for the majority of people, the same person will continue to deliver the care and support regardless of who wins the contract.
“Overall though it is expected the service will have a positive impact on the people who receive the service as well as their carers now and in the future.
“The contract will be monitored very closely during the first few months to be sure that the capacity is adequate and that the new service is meeting contractual expectations including delivering highly flexible and personalised support which changes according to the person’s needs on any particular night.”
The new service will be in place from April 2019, and the contract will be for five years. The plans will be discussed at a cabinet meeting next Wednesday, October 17.