HAMPSHIRE councils could be forced to stop “clockwatching care” visits of just 15 minutes by home helps which are putting vulnerable pensioners at risk.
Ministers are expected to crack down on councils commissioning care by the minute from private care providers in regulations to be unveiled today.
Just last month the Daily Echo revealed that both Hampshire County Council and Southampton City Council commission just 15 minutes of care for some elderly and disabled people, including dementia sufferers.
About one in seven daily lifeline visits commissioned by the county council lasts no more than 15 minutes.
And in that time carers can be expected to complete essential tasks such as heating meals, taking vulnerable people to the toilet and prompting them to take medication.
The Daily Echo’s Dignity in Old Age campaign called for county and city council bosses to extend the minimum period of care to 30 minutes.
The Conservative local authority has introduced a new electronic monitoring system which precisely times when carers start and end home visits and will allow per-minute billing for care when fully implemented.
And it saved £4.9m in 2011-12 by driving down the price it pays agencies providing care to people in their own homes.
Now the care and support White Paper is expected to rule out the by-the-minute commissioning of domiciliary care.
But any decisions on how care will be funded in future will be put-off until 2014 – a move slammed by charities.
Care services minister Paul Burstow said: “Contracting care by the minute means the focus is always on the clock, not on the person, which is not how it should be.
“The best councils are arranging care that concentrates on the person and their needs – this ultimately delivers the best outcomes.
Kindness, compassion, dignity and respect must dictate how care is delivered.”
Hampshire County Council has refused to comment before the White Paper is published.
Last week a national survey of care providers found elderly people were being put in danger after councils ordered care agencies to complete vital home visits in 15- minute slots to save money.
The UK Homecare Association, which represents organisations that provide home care, said even personal care, such as washing and dressing, can be fitted into unreasonably short time slots.
Chris Perry, director of Age Concern Hampshire, backed the scrapping of care by the minute.
He said: “We welcome anything that gets away from carers having too little time to do what is needed and having to clock-watch.”