How impressed was I when Skills for Care introduced its new Care Certificate last March? The aim of this new certificate is to equip health and social care support workers with the knowledge and skills which they need to provide safe, compassionate care. It is the new minimum standards that should be covered as part of induction training of new care workers. At last I thought, someone is taking the caring profession seriously.
I had experienced first-hand the diverse standards of care available when 11 years ago I was searching for someone to help care for my widowed mother who was showing signs of early dementia.
Back then I paid an agency £950 a week for full time live in help and I shudder to think what it must cost now. My mother’s carer, although very nice, had no real training, apart from a brief agency induction course, which actually told her more about what she couldn’t do, rather than how to do what she should be doing. Luckily I lived a few minutes away so could be on hand most of the time except when I went up to Scotland for work and received a phone call.
“I think there may be something wrong with your mother as she is walking around talking gibberish!” said the carer. Of course I knew immediately she had suffered a stroke and I hot footed it down south.
Sadly it was a bad stroke and she died a few months later.
The lack of training for many carers back then was quite evident so when this care certificate was introduced, I was pleased, particularly to see that Basic Life Support was part of the training package. Having run Safe and Sound, a first aid training company, for the past 15 years, basic life support is always at the forefront of my thoughts. Imagine my surprise then, when I approached some care agencies to see if they would like more information about our Basic Life Support Training for carers, and I was greeted with:
“Our carers aren’t allowed to resuscitate our clients.”
“Why not”, I asked, adding “so why is it part of the new Care Certificate?”
“Our insurance will not cover the carers doing CPR,” was the answer.
“You mean” I said rather anxiously, ““if one of your carers is looking after someone who does not have a DNR instruction, and they stop breathing, your carer does nothing.”
“They must just call 999 and wait for the emergency services to arrive,” replied the Care Agency Manager who was by now getting rather irritated.
It is no secret that the emergency services can take up to 8 minutes to arrive and that once the heart stops there is only around 3 minutes before the brain starts to die.
“So are they just to stand by watching their client die then? “ I said incredulously. At which point the Manager put the phone down on me, making me feel a bit like an ambulance chaser rather than an extremely confused and anxious member of the public, albeit with a first aid training company. It is a sad reflection on our society if we are so fearful of litigation that it stops us trying to save someone’s life.
I wind back 11 years and wonder what I would have done, if my mother, who apart from forgetting things, was a healthy older person, had stopped breathing and the carer, who I was paying £950 a week, had done nothing but wait for the emergency services. Bad enough that she couldn’t recognise a stroke! It is all very for the agencies to say that we do not have a Good Samaritan Act here in the UK (no one has ever been sued for trying to administer first aid) but I might have just felt like taking legal action myself!