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What can you do in 15 minutes?, 7 October 2013

Dave MundayBy Dave Munday, professional officer in the Health sector 

Today, Leonard Cheshire Disability has produced a report called Ending 15-Minute Care. You can have a look at the key findings of this report on the link but I’m sure the majority of people would not be surprised by its key findings. Actually, you don’t need to rely on my hunch as it’s got the stats in there too! 93% of people agree that a 15-minute visit is not long enough to support a disabled or older person to do everyday things like wash, dress and get out of bed in the morning. I do wonder who are the other 7% who think that it could be done in less than 15-minutes?

It’s always intrigued me that in working it out the average of visits, basic maths goes out the window. I always understood that the average (or mean) of a group of numbers was found by adding all the numbers together and dividing that total by the number of numbers (can you tell why I never wanted to be a maths teacher?).

Maybe I’m just foolish but I can’t imagine many scenarios where someone providing a service to people in their homes could be in and out in 900 seconds. The Association of Directors of Adult Social services has stated that they think 15 minutes can be enough for medication visits but even for something so ‘trivial’, is this really possible?

There have been a few examples of what this means in reality to those that deserve a compassionate service. The Independent highlighted the experience of one woman “Looking at the clock all the time. I end up choosing... Have I got time to check if they can fill the hot water bottle? Shall I choose between getting my meal prepared or them emptying my commode? Do I get a drink or do I go to the toilet? I get really lonely and I rely on the visits of my carers, but I know they are never stopping long”. The BBC highlighted this from a carer; “15-minute visits usually overrun…the short time available still forced carers to make choices such as whether to leave someone alone with a hot drink which they might spill on themselves, or sit with them while they drink but fail to get them ready for bed. Asked if people's safety was being compromised by visits being too short, she replied: "Their safety, their independence, their dignity."

This gets worse when you also hear from the staff involved that they don’t get paid for their travel time and feel terrible knowing that they have to deliver such sub-standard care! An absence of compassion for the people receiving the service, and the same for the staff providing it.

As part of the Unite in Health policy sessions, one of our key demands in the area of integrated mental health services was that: Quality must always be the first priority. It must be built in to every service delivered. 15 minute ‘visits’ must no longer be provided as its impossible to average a care episode provided peripatetically in this time. We therefore support Leonard Disability Charity in their aim to stop these ‘flying visits’.