Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, Healthwatch Shropshire met with seven home care providers in the county to discuss the services they provide, what they feel works well and any areas where there are challenges.
Home care – also known as domiciliary care – is often seen as the ‘front line’ of social care delivery and is critical to the long-standing intention to deliver care as close as possible to people’s homes.
A new report, published by the watchdog following the study, says through meetings with home care providers it found "recruitment is increasingly difficult for the sector and consistency of care can be difficult to achieve".
The report said that providers told the group that they try their best to keep staff consistent, particularly for those with dementia, but as they have a high proportion of part time workers amongst their staff this is not always possible.
The rurality of the county was said to pose extra problems for providers in respect of travel time and it was noted that hospital discharges can pose problems due to a "lack of communication, mixed messages or failed discharges".
Failed discharges include people going back into hospital the same day or next day.
The report said: "There are problems with poor communication and lack of continuity. We were told ‘the social worker will say they are fit for discharge then the occupational therapist says no.
"As a provider we are left to advocate for people – sometimes preventing failed discharges by providing extra input'.
"One provider told us that hospital discharges are the most difficult care packages to take on as they find that sometimes ‘people come out of hospital and they are not ready'."
Healthwatch Shropshire also conducted a questionnaire for people using home care services in the county and received 102 responses.
The group say they found service users were "very happy with their experiences in the main" but continuity of care was found to be an issue with 24 per cent of respondents saying that they felt that they see too many different carers.
Lynn Cawley, chief officer of Healthwatch Shropshire, said: “Provision of home care comes with its challenges particularly in rural areas but it has been reassuring to hear from the majority of people who responded to our survey that their experience has been good.
"We want to continue to hear about home care services, particularly how the service has been delivered during the pandemic, including to those people who have been discharged from hospital.”
Healthwatch Shropshire is now looking more closely at hospital discharge and currently has a survey open asking for people’s experiences during the pandemic.
It is available at www.healthwatchshropshire.co.uk/tell-us-about-your-experience-leaving-hospital-during-covid-19 or can be completed over the telephone by calling 01743 237884.