The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) announced this week that carers should spend at least 30 minutes on home visits with their elderly patients. NICE recommended a series of additional measures to boost care quality, such as training carers to recognise health problems, and ensure people have the same care giver whenever possible. This would allow for greater consistency of treatment and for patients to build up a good relationship with the carer.

We, at Prestige Nursing + Care are in agreement with any initiatives that would improve home care for the elderly and reduce the number of ‘flying care visits’ of 15 minutes or less. While laudable however, questions arise about the practicalities and implementation of this, as discussed last week on BBC Radio 5 Live by a panel with experience working in the industry. The social care sector continues to face huge financial pressures with a massive shortfall of funding and continued cuts. NICE’s guidance offers no explanation as to how these longer visits would be funded. Recent changes to the minimum wage and the EU ruling on travel times could already push local authorities, care providers and the sector to breaking point. Without being carefully thought out, this could be another nail in the coffin of social care but, with an ageing population and no sign of cuts letting up, few alternative solutions come to mind.

Improving the quality of care at home is something everyone should strive for. Home care has huge benefits for elderly wellbeing, and it provides company, stability and support for a huge range of tasks which helps people remain in their homes for longer. It is also less expensive than residential care.

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If accepted, NICE’s guidelines could be a turning point for the care sector and transform the way the elderly are cared for. It would also be of benefit to health care and the NHS by reducing the reliance on this over-stretched organisation. But for it to work sustainably, a cohesive and stringent plan needs to be considered. Organisations, including care providers and the NHS, have already published a joint statement to the Treasury to urge them to protect social care, only if the government listens will the sector survive and advance.