Shropshire care expert reveals concern for future of industry

A Shropshire care industry expert has raised grave concerns about the future of the industry, highlighted in an ITV documentary this week.

Steve Harris, director of Carewatch (Mid Shropshire), based in Stafford Park, has said the crisis in care is not approaching - it is now very real.

“Care providers are refusing to take on local authority contracts because of the price they pay and the industry, as it is, is not sustainable,” he said.

“Issues like the living wage - which are a much needed change - are compounding the situation.
“It means elderly or disabled people who need domiciliary care are going to be left out in the dark, left with no one who can fulfill the contracts to give them the care they both need and deserve.

“I know of companies who have not changed practices and are now going bankrupt, it is a very scary situation to be in both in the industry and as a care user.

“You have local authorities talking about a 1per cent pay rise - but what is realistically needed is a five to eight per cent rise.”

Growing Old, Care in Crisis?, presented by Penny Marshall on Thursday night (OCT 8), followed a carer around visits and interviewing customers on how the care was important to them.

It showed care executives explaining that they were not bidding for many contracts  because the low rates wouldn't enable them to provide good care.

There was also an interview with a hospital consultant who looked after a ward where there were elderly people who had been there for three weeks, despite being well, but unable to leave because there was no social care available in the community.

And Mr Harris, who recently made a presentation to care providers at a conference in London, said the only way to combat this is with cost saving technology - but it’s now or never.

He said: “Unless you start to embrace technology you will have no business. If you stick with paper you will find it very difficult to make a profit.

“You need to modify and change or go bankrupt - and you can’t change overnight, you need to be forward thinking, you need training and there are costs involved.
“It is a process of at least a year, if people don’t do it now you won’t have a business.”

Mr Harris has recently introduced an app for his staff to document customer details and updates, a way of paper free working to increase efficiency.

He is also in the process of developing the first UK tablet based technology which aims to revolutionise the way home care works, giving customers the power to call a carer when they need it instead of only being seen at an allotted time.

His company is expanding by one or two per cent a month.

But a recent United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) survey has found that 93per cent of providers trading with councils had faced a real-terms decrease in the price paid for their services in the last 12 months.

In addition, 50per cent were aware of tender opportunities from their local councils but had declined to bid for one or more contract on the basis of price.

There is some evidence of providers having already begun to hand back packages of care to their local authority commissioners over the last 12 months, affecting 1,807 people's care in the sample.

Mr Harris added: “This survey makes for grim reading for anyone involved in the industry - or indeed the public as well who will grow old and may well need domiciliary home care at some point.
“Perhaps most alarmingly, the survey revealed 11per cent of all providers thought that they would 'definitely' or 'probably' have ceased trading within the next twelve months.
“Just 38% of providers were completely confident that they would still be in business at the same time next year.

“What does this mean for the future of home care?”