A Borders home care service has continued to fail clients with more missed and late visits, inspectors have found during an unannounced visit.
Allied Healthcare, based in Hawick, has been rated ‘weak’ by the Care Inspectorate for the second consecutive time.
Inspectors said ‘unworkable’ rotas which include no allowance for travel time have contributed to clients having to get relatives to visit and help administer medication.
They also forced staff to cut visits short or run late, the inspectors said, with a significant number of visits a day running over 30 minutes late.
In July inspectors called for the company to ensure staffing levels were sufficient to meet contracted service levels and that care was provided both for the correct length of time and also at the right time.
However, after revisiting the service inspectors found that the number of staff had actually decreased, and that a number of issues remained in these areas.
Inspectors Dave Hutchinson and Pauline Davidson stated: “One member of staff expressed embarrassment at having to constantly apologise to the people they visit for being late.”
They added: “Service users and their relatives described their observations of the time pressures staff were under. This pressure was acutely felt by newly-recruited staff.”
The inspectors said that while some service users received consistent care, many clients and relatives said this was not the case, particularly at weekends.
However, they added: “The service continues to be at its strongest where established ‘core’ staff teams are in place to support individual service users. This allows a positive rapport to develop over time.
“We saw evidence of these positive working relationships during this inspection. We also received several positive comments from both people using the service and their relatives, who noted the high regard they had for the staff who visited them to provide care.”
The inspectors also noted that support to the manager and senior staff had improved and that work had been undertaken to improve staff recruitment.
An Allied Healthcare spokeswoman told The Southern: “Allied Healthcare provide care in the Borders as commissioned by the local authority. More than a third of visits in this area are commissioned as 15-minute calls which clearly impacts on our care workers’ ability to spend quality time with people.
“Despite this, our latest customer surveys show that individuals and their families rated the service they receive to be good to excellent in all categories, including timeliness of visits, quality and consistency of staff and the overall quality of service they receive.
“With budgets being reduced, and the number of people requiring care increasing this is of course a very difficult challenge for all local authorities, but seems to be a particular difficulty in the Borders where the recruitment of potential care workers is becoming increasingly difficult.”
She added: “We agree with the inspectorate that staffing numbers need to be increased, and many of the issues raised are inextricably linked to this one key fact.
“However, this particular issue affects all care providers, including the local authority’s own service in the area, and this point was also not reflected in the report.
“We have been working closely with the local authority, the job centre and Train to Care, to try and increase the number of new recruits.
“However, to date this is simply not resulting in a net increase in the number of suitable care workers for providers in this area, which naturally puts more pressure on other team members.”
The spokeswoman concluded: “Since the last report the inspectorate has acknowledged that we have satisfied a number of their requirements and actions, and made significant improvements, however, the grade remains unchanged.
“We therefore do not believe this grade is truly reflective of the improved quality of the service that customers receive from Allied Healthcare, as evidenced in the surveys that our customers themselves complete.”
An SBC spokeswoman said: “There have been a number of service improvements, especially in relation to missed visits. These have been significantly reduced due to remedial actions taken by Allied Healthcare since the last inspection report.
“Whilst the social work department recognises that any missed visit is a concern, we have been assured by Allied Healthcare that they are taking all steps to address this, along with the outstanding recommendations.”