Views And Reviews Acute Perspective

David Oliver: Supporting care assistants when clients become ill at home

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 02 January 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:j5110

Re:Supporting care assistants when clients become ill at home

The Scottish system is not quite the same, but certain things are similar. It remains true that large numbers of frail elderly people depend on care assistants for crucial care, and that these workers are not treated fairly. In Edinburgh the European Working Time Directive is ignored: workers should have at least eleven consecutive hours between shifts, but here they only have ten, which is inadequate: how can one get home after 10 pm, have something to eat, have a shower, get to bed, have seven hours' sleep, get up, have breakfast, and get back to work by 8 am in such limited time? Management says that time off in the afternoon compensates, but it doesn't: there isn't time to get home and have a sleep. We are putting the health of these essential workers at risk, besides behaving illegally.

Also, though bus fares are paid between clients, these are bought individually, instead of using a day-saver, which could also be used for the journey home. So what? It would still be cheaper for the Council to use day-savers. This is just one example of how money and resources are being wasted at a time of financial stringency. Increasingly it is workers from overseas who are recruited, from both Europe and the Commonwealth: we are extremely grateful to them for keeping the service going: but for how long I can this be if they are not fairly treated? We are told that the European Working Time Directive will be respected when we leave Europe: so it is imperative that we respect it now.

Competing interests: No competing interests

03 January 2018
Heather M. Goodare
3 Glengyle Terrace, Edinburgh EH3 9LL