Care of elderly branded disgrace; EXCLUSIVE Home carers service facing inquiry after neglect claims.
AN INQUIRY has been ordered into Liverpool Council's care of elderly people, amid claims that pensioners have been neglected in their homes to the point where they needed hospital treatment It is alleged that frail senior citizens are waiting up to 18 hours for carers to come to help them out of their bed or chair and change their clothes.
Now the council is reviewing all of its contracts and a complete shake-up is expected to be carried out early next month.
The changes are being made following calls for action against one of the council's care providers, Local Solutions.
Last night, a city council spokesman apologised for any distress caused by the poor standard of care provided by Local Solutions. The company said it was launching an internal review and was taking the allegations very seriously.
The registered charity covers the south Liverpool area, where councillors have received calls for help from elderly people and their families.
The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Frank Roderick, said: 'In my opinion, the level of care being delivered is an absolute disgrace.
'Vulnerable people are being left and the sad thing is many of them are not in a position to speak out.
'Carers are just not turning up at their appointed times. I have been on the phone roaring at Local Solutions on behalf of my constituents, but they say they just haven't got the staff.'
Cllr Roderick, St Mary's ward councillor, said: 'In fairness, carers are under a lot of pressure and understaffed, but that is no excuse when elderly people are being treated like this.
'If you look at it economically, it is much cheaper for the authorities if elderly people are cared for in their home, rather than at a nursing home.'
Councillors have received complaints that carers arrive at their clients' homes to make meals, but leave half cooked dinners on their laps before rushing out.
It is claimed that elderly people are being left in bed or on a chair for more than a day, with nobody to move them or change their incontinency pads.
This neglect means some suffer skin damage and then have to be taken into a nursing home or into a hospital until they recover.
Cllr Roger Johnston, Yewtree ward councillor, said: 'This incompetency means the council are paying for their care twice.
'It has a contract with Local Solutions, then it gets a bill from the nursing home.
'This situation is putting more pressure on district nurses, who already have a difficult job, but are having to come in to clean up after them and arrange for the client to be taken to hospital or a nursing home.'
Cllr Johnston says he has spoken to many concerned clients and district nurses.
He added: 'In one case, a district nurse arrived at an elderly person's house, they hadn't been moved or changed and the curtains weren't drawn - even though a Local Solutions carer was supposed to have been that morning.
'The nurse made a phone call and the carer arrived shortly afterwards wearing a coat over pyjamas.
'Another elderly woman I have heard from needed daily visits from a carer to cook her meals for her.
'The carer would just come in, put a bowl of soup in the microwave for a couple of minutes, shove the bowl in front of her and leave her to eat it still cold.'
One district nurse, who did not want to be identified, said: 'Every time Local Solutions is mentioned, I am filled with dread.
'We just have to clear up their mess. We go to see clients who are supposed to be cared for by Local Solutions and quite often they are in a mess and distressed.
'Trying to sort outa place in a nursing home or a hospital for them just adds to our work load.'
Cllr Flo Clucas, executive member of housing and social care, confirmed the council is looking to improve the home care service for the elderly.
But said she could not comment about allegations made against an individual company.
She said: 'We are looking at ll the l contracts in relation to home care services. We want to change the way the contracts are operated.
'At the moment, people are going in and doing the job and then coming out. We are looking at a different way of doing this that puts the client at the centre.
'We are looking at what they will need to ensure a better quality of life. We are very concerned there are carers and professionals out there who are not being given the opportunity to do more for their clients. Another concern is the ability to attract people into care work.'
She said carers would be encouraged to take the time out to talk to their clients.
She added: 'We are working with all the companies who provide care for us. Come Aprilwe will have a very different service.
'We are also working with the private sector and the housing associations about how they can be involved in a holistic service.'
A Liverpool City Council spokesman said: 'We are aware that a number of concerns have been raised about the performance of Local Solutions.
'We have already put in place a stringent improvement plan which has been agreed by the company. We are reviewing their performance on an ongoing basis.
'We are very disappointed to hear the standard of care a few people received from Local Solutions is not up to our usual high standards and would like to apologise for any distress.'
Heather Akehurst, human resources manager at Local Solutions, said: 'Local Solutions takes these allegations very seriously.
'We are in the process of conducting an internal review to thoroughly investigate these matters. This process would be greatly assisted if the councillors quoted could supply us with full details of the service users involved.
'We take responsibility for our service users wellbeing seriously
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Flo Clucas; Frank Roderick; The offices of Local Solutions, at Mount Vernon View, Liverpool; Picture: MARTIN BIRCHALL; The entrance to Local Solutions Picture: MARTIN BIRCHALL; Daughter's worry during mother's care at home; Vicky Holmes with mother Muriel Cullen, niece Stephanie Osborn and nephew Andrew Osborn