- Care staff 'increasingly being asked to perform tasks nurses used to do'
- Some untrained carers are changing catheters and administering morphine
- Age UK director has called the findings in a new survey 'frankly terrifying'
- Survey questioned 1,000 workers employed by councils and private firms
Untrained home carers are putting the elderly and disabled ‘at risk of serious harm’ while giving medication, performing intimate procedures and looking after patients with dementia, warns a survey today.
Care staff say they are increasingly being asked to perform tasks previously only carried out by nurses.
These include changing catheter and colostomy bags, feeding through a tube and even administering morphine.
'Frankly terrifying': Care staff (not pictured, file image) say they are increasingly being asked to perform tasks previously only carried out by nurses. These include changing colostomy bags and administering morphine
The worrying conclusions come in a survey of 1,000 workers employed by councils and private firms by trade union Unison.
Almost a quarter – 24 per cent –giving medication such as morphine and insulin had received no training while 27 per cent said they were not trained in working with dementia patients.
More than three-quarters asked for more training to cope with the extra procedures but only 49 per cent had received any.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘The idea that untrained care workers are administering drugs like morphine is frankly terrifying.
‘It is no exaggeration to say that frail older people are being put at risk of serious harm or worse.’
George McNamara, of the Alzheimer’s Society, added: ‘Two-thirds of people with dementia live in the community and it is a disgrace that these people are being let down so profoundly.
Survey findings: Almost a quarter giving medication such as morphine or insulin had received no training
‘It can also have devastating consequences if care workers don’t have enough training to be able to appropriately communicate – with people with dementia often ending up in hospital as a result.’
Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said: ‘This is further evidence of how our care system is in crisis.’
Other findings include that more than half of home carers have not been shown how to care for people with colostomy bags and 45 per cent have not been trained to change a catheter bag.
Nearly four in ten had not been shown how to carry out peg feeding, where food is inserted directly into the stomach via a tube.
One female home care worker in south-east England said: ‘I see clients with dementia despite having never had any training.
‘When administering medicine, you often have to phone the office to ask what to do.’
A Midlands-based male worker reported: ‘I’ve been a care worker for almost 20 years and received formal qualifications working for other companies in the past.
‘Now, there are people who have never been trained.
‘They are just sent out with another carer to show them how things are done.’
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘If homecare workers aren’t receiving adequate training, there could be fatal consequences.’
The UK Homecare Association, which represents firms running services for councils, admits workers are ‘often called upon to undertake roles previously undertaken by registered nurses’.
It blames spending cuts, forcing its members to do more with less money. A spokesman said it had ‘repeatedly drawn attention to the risks posed by a grossly-under-funded care system’.
The Local Government Association, which represents councils, declined to comment.