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The safety of elderly and disabled people is being put at risk because homecare workers are inadequately trained, according to a new report published today.

A survey of more than 1,000 care workers by Unison found that staff are routinely asked to perform difficult and intimate procedures for which they have received little or no training.

Changing catheter bags, stoma care, administering medication and looking after patients with dementia are just some of the difficult tasks inadequately trained homecare workers are being asked to carry out. Tasks such as these would have previously been carried out by registered nurses.

Unison says inadequate training can leave elderly and disabled people in significant discomfort and at risk from infections.

Unison also warns that insufficient training on how to administer medication could lead to fatal overdoses.

According to the study, homecare workers are being denied vital knowledge that could improve skills and further their careers.

The study also found that:

  • Almost 59% of homecare workers had received no training in how to attach or change a convene catheter.
  • More than half (52%) had not been shown how to perform stoma care.
  • More than four in ten (45%) had not received training in how to change a catheter bag.
  • More than a third (38%) hadn’t been showed how to carry out peg feeding.
  • 24% of homecare workers administering medication had received no training, despite some of them distributing drugs such as liquid morphine and insulin.
  • 69% said they cared for people who suffer from dementia. Despite this, 27% had received no training in how to work with people with this illness.
  • 78% of respondents had asked for extra training to help them carry out their increasingly demanding roles, but less than half (49%) had received any.

Unison says that the survey suggests that homecare workers are feeling increasingly uncomfortable with a system that is sending them into the homes of people with complicated needs, with the bare minimum of training, or in some cases, no guidance at all.

They add that the Government’s new care certificate has done little to address the lack of training for homecare workers and provides little more than a basic introduction to care.

This is compounded by the fact that homecare workers are being forced to carry out their duties in as little as 15-minutes. Many are not being allocated the same care users, preventing them from building relationships with the people they care for.

Unison says that despite being expected to carry out increasingly difficult tasks with more responsibility, many homecare workers are being paid below the national minimum wage.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: “If homecare workers aren’t receiving adequate training to carry out complicated tasks, there could be fatal consequences for the people they care for.

“The funding the government gives to councils for social care has been slashed since 2010, forcing many local authorities and private companies to skimp on training. It is a stark illustration of the lack of dignity that is being afforded to both care workers and the people who rely on homecare.

“Plans to integrate NHS and social care services are doomed to failure while we have a social care system that treats homecare workers with such contempt, and the people they care for with such disregard.”