The importance of scheduling care to allow for enough time for travel between visits has been identified as a key issue by The Access Group’s James Taylor.
This follows a CQC inspection in March of a medium-sized homecare service which highlighted scheduling of visits as a fundamental issue within two Key Lines of Enquiry (KLOEs); “Is the service safe?” and “Is the service well-led?”
For both these KLOEs, the service was rated as Requires Improvement, whereas the services were rated Good within three other KLOEs.
Overall, the service of scheduling visits was rated as Requires Improvement, showing that overlooking the procedural side of things can drag down a service that is otherwise providing high quality care.
Despite staff being knowledgeable and patients having a good relationship with the staff who supported and cared for them, people felt that the management of the service could be improved in some areas, for example the scheduling of call times.
Poor scheduling impacts both safety and care quality, with extreme cases of how missed, late and shortened visits have led to patients not receiving medicines.
Although a patient’s safety is not necessarily impacted by visits being late or ‘clipped’, the quality of their care often is.
Patients are often distressed when their carer arrives late, and when a carer is pressed for time they are typically unable to provide person focused and high quality service.
Further research carried out by The Access Group revealed how much of care providers’ resources are wasted due to care scheduling that doesn’t fully recognise or optimise for travel between visits.
A period studied in 2017-2018 showed that travel costs, including costs for travel distance and National Minimum Wage top-up pay, totalled an estimated £49.7m over a 12-month period.
During this period, over 148 million miles were travelled in the delivery of homecare services, with an average of 3.06 miles per visit.
These costs are enormous but unavoidable, but Taylor claims that there are tools and solutions that care providers can adopt and implement that will help in reducing travel costs per visit and allow time for a better quality of care to be provided.
He says there are scheduling and rostering solutions (SRSs) that include an integration with GoogleMaps, that allows for route optimisation and accurate calculation of travel time and accurate minimum wage top-up pay.
The data featured in the Hidden Dynamics of Homecare 2018 shows an average difference of 2 miles travelled per visit for those using the dynamic mapping integration in certain care rostering software, equating to £1.38 less in travel distance pay per visit.
Therefore, by adopting relevant software solutions care workers can provide an enhanced quality of care to clients and efficiency and productivity will be improved.