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By The Cornishman  |  Posted: February 06, 2014

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Not before time, politicians are being forced to think about the lot of care workers.

Just because few ever complain or communicate with their local MP doesn't mean to say they haven't a right to a voice.

It has been my privilege not only to meet many but also, on one occasion, to shadow their work. This has helped me make a very strong case for care workers to be given the protection of a decent benchmark for standards of treatment.

Health ministers, policy wonks, bean-counters, hospital managers and even patients all say we should care for more patients in their own homes, to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions and to discharge patients more quickly: but where does this all lead? Well, to a health service which depends on a functioning and safe structure of care and support in people's homes. And who will take on the bulk of the job? Home care workers, among the lowest-paid, most put-upon and most criticised in the country, expected to undertake an often unfeasible range of tasks on immobile and sometimes overweight people in cramped conditions and sometimes in less than 15 minutes, without travel time or expenses being covered, given little training and induction and paid at or around the minimum wage.

I sometimes ask ministers how long it took them to get up, wash, get dressed, have breakfast and get out in the morning and if they think it's fair to expect a home care worker to perform those functions on an elderly and less mobile person than themselves in less time? It's no wonder home care workers move on as quickly as they do. Wouldn't you?

This "Out of sight, out of mind" attitude underpins the way we treat patients who are cared for in their homes, and the workers who have to provide that care.

For the past year I have been putting pressure on health ministers to accept my draft standards for care companies which provide home care, including:

• a living wage for workers (£7.20 per hour in 2013);

• travel time between visits as part of salaried time, and a minimum mileage rate of 35p per mile;

• a minimum visit time of 45 minutes in exceptional cases, but at least one hour for most visits;

• efficient arrival/departure reporting systems;

• proper induction and structured annual training, leading to qualifications.

We need to build our health and social care system on strong foundations. If care at home is to be a growing feature of that system then we need to give it more than the threadbare resources currently on offer.

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