HEALTH chiefs are to re-tender all of their care at home contracts in a bid to ensure stability and provide “real quality and consistency” for the most frail and isolated Oldham residents.

The borough’s commissioning partnership board has agreed to change the way that domiciliary care services are procured for people who need additional care, which may mean being looked after in their own home.

As a result all the current contracts will be put out to tender again, with the aim of halving the number of providers from 20 down to 10.

Mark Warren, managing director for community health and adult social care, told members that they were spending “in the region” of £9 million a year on care at home services, which served around 1,000 people.

This meant the council delivered more than 600,000 hours of care annually, and he described their model as “probably one of the most successful in Greater Manchester”.

“Other than in the Saddleworth area we have been able to develop and create a market where we have the capacity to meet the needs of people in our area, unlike many areas of GM,” Mr Warren added.

“So we’re very conscious that any changes that we make to the existing system create risk and we need to be very careful with that.

“Part of the reason for change is integration. As we progress with our integration journey we start to build services around geographical clusters.

“And we still have issues with domiciliary care; recruitment and retention is an issue. Turnover is in excess of 25pc and in terms of career progression, it’s often limited.”

Each health “cluster” covering a geographical area of Oldham will have two contracted providers of home care, who would be commissioned on a five year contract with an option to extend for a further two years.

Those providers would then become part of that cluster team, working with GPs, social workers, district nurses, therapies, and voluntary care organisations.

Bosses would also change the way that extra care housing schemes are run, opting for their six schemes to be run by just one provider.

Portfolio holder for health and social care, Councillor Zahid Chauhan said: “We have a general understanding that when you become unwell that’s when health matters.

“But there is a step before that and that’s where social care comes in. It’s how do you keep people healthy in their environment.

“And quite often you have a care worker, working in isolation, poorly paid and working on commission.

“What is also important is how do we use this as as opportunity to set it up as a quality care market in Oldham?”

The meeting was told that through the new contracts, care staff would also be given more opportunities for career progression through the council and clinical commissioning group (CCG), and ensure consistency with regular hourly payments.

Council leader Sean Fielding added: “The best place for people to be is often at home and I really welcome that we’re going to have a strategy whereby people are looked after in their own homes, not necessarily for the condition they are being treated for – but for their wellbeing, their mental health and being around their family and friends.”

Cllr Fielding said he had some personal knowledge of the care system in Oldham while a grandparent was being looked after at home several years ago, but it “wasn’t a great experience”.

He added: “On the day that I visited a home care worker came round to do all the different things they do and didn’t even take their coat off – it was one of the horror stories that you read in the paper about people tipping up doing 15 minutes and going away.

“It wasn’t a great example, and I really think that via this we’ll be able to design and model that will provide real quality and consistency in the market in Oldham.

“I think reducing the number of providers so that people have bigger contracts and that provides stability particularly for employees that we acknowledge are low paid, but giving them consistency of hours and regular income is part of breaking down the barriers that sees the highest turnover of working in home care.

“And I think it’s the right decision to have two providers per cluster so that if one doesn’t work out that we see then you’ve got that back-up there.”

Chief clinical officer at Oldham CCG John Patterson said: “These are our most vulnerable residents, frail residents, sometimes very isolated and it’s important that this works. It is fixing a plane while it’s in flight.”