Elderly care for people with dementia in Brighton and Hove was criticised in a front page report in The Times today (Monday 26 March).
The newspaper said that Brighton and Hove City Council was one of many councils in England and Wales to focus on the clock, not the person needing care.
It said: “Care of the elderly is still being rationed by the minute despite a government pledge to end the practice.
“Almost half of councils that provide social care in England and Wales set a minimum period of only 15 minutes for carers to wash, dress and feed a patient with dementia still living at home, freedom of information requests show.
“The findings will alarm those responsible for the welfare of dementia sufferers because rigid time slots for home care leave the most frail and vulnerable at risk of mistreatment.
“The investigation exposes the scale of the challenge faced by the government as its confronts the twin problems of an ageing population and the need to cut public expenditure.”
The report was written by former Argus reporter Martin Barrow, the health editor of The Times, and deputy political editor Sam Coates, who trained in Sussex.
It was published in advance of a speech by Prime Minister David Cameron calling for a nationwide effort to help to tackle dementia.
The Times report said: “Three years ago the Labour government promised to end time slots for the care of people in their homes but The Times’s investigation shows that councils including Durham, Essex, Manchester, Brighton and Hove, Cornwall and Kirklees all continue to use them.
“One council, Staffordshire, admitted to setting a minimum period of 15 minutes, with carers the required to account for every three minutes thereafter.
“Those with a minimum period of 30 minutes include Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Ealing, Wandsworth, Birmingham and Lancashire.”
The newspaper quoted Paul Burstow, the Care Services Minister, as saying: “It is bad practice to contract care by the minute. It means that the focus is always on the clock, not the person needing care.
“Councils are responsible for assessing the care needs of people living in their area. Rather than contracting for clock-watching, the best councils are arranging care that concentrates on delivering the outcomes people deserve: dignified and compassionate care.”
The report also quoted Louise Lakey, policy manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, as saying: “Minimum time periods would be treated in practice as standard time periods.
“The kind of tasks people with dementia need help with – making food, bathing or going to the toilet – are very difficult to do in 15 minutes so people may end up not having their needs met.
“We need to make sure there is enough time to keep the care in caring.”
And it quoted Peter Hay, president of ADASS (the Association of Directors of Adult Social Service), as saying that any home care that took less than 30 minutes would not cater for basic needs.
Michelle Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK, told The Times: “Home care needs to be focused on caring for and listening to the individual rather than carrying out tasks in a designated time slot.
“This is even more important when caring for people with dementia, as they may suffer from confusion.”