‘Reform care of elderly in Havering before disaster strikes’ - chief of ATUPPS union

John Vogler

John Vogler - Credit: Archant

A union leader has warned of a “potential disaster” looming over care services for the elderly in Havering.

John Vogler, general secretary of ATUPPS, has called for a crackdown on the use of “zero-hours” contracts.

He aired his concerns as new figures emerged showing a fifth of the UK’s social care workforce is employed on a zero-hours basis.

Zero-hours contracts have traditionally been employed in the hospitality and leisure sectors, but they are increasingly being used in health, social care and further education.

Mr Vogler said this week he believed:

- Minimum-wage carers are being left to dispense medication with little or no training and supervision;

- Elderly and vulnerable patients are being cared for by lone inexperienced, untrained carers, even when it has been recommended they be visited in groups of two;

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- Zero-hours contracts encourage carers to cram as many jobs as possible into a day, often turning up late and not spending enough time with patients;

- Whistleblowers are dealt with improperly and concerns ignored.

Mr Vogler said: “It’s fairly obvious you should be suitably qualified [if you have to] issue medication – but carers are asked to give it.

“You get carers turning up late, not doing what they should, or spending the amount of time with clients they should.”

He echoed the concerns expressed in an independent review that found there was no minimum standard for healthcare assistants in the NHS before they are allowed to work unsupervised.

The Cavendish Review also found that some assistants were performing tasks usually reserved for doctors and nurses, such as taking blood samples and inserting IV drips without standard training.

Mr Vogler reported hearing concerns from carers in and around Havering about how elderly patients were being treated in their own homes, saying others could be afraid to speak out

“One of our members raised concerns about the care being provided to a client and the response from the local authority was to get on to the employing body, who told that person to shut up,” he said.

“There have to be good systems in place so carers can raise concerns. There’s a potential disaster waiting to happen.”

Clients are unlikely to speak up either, according to Mr Vogler.

“People in their homes who are infirm and elderly are less likely to report issues of concern,” he said.

“They are frightened and lonely.”

Do you have a story to tell about problems with care in Havering? Call the news desk on 020 8477 3903 or e-mail ramzy.alwakeel@archant.co.uk.