The county council is hoping to improve the care residents receive at home merging contracts for routine and specialist services.

Supporters say the move will reduce zero-hours contracts and help care workers build up a relationship with the people they look after.

Hertfordshire County Council currently offers one contract for ‘support at home’, which includes routine visits to help with care needs, including personal care, meal preparation, skin care and medication.

There is a separate ‘specialist care at home’ reablement contract, for four weeks of non-chargeable care offered to residents, often provided after a spell in hospital.

In practice residents can move between the two services, depending on their circumstances or need.

But where these two services are provided by different companies, the number of care workers an individual sees can increase.

Delays in transition can even cause ‘bed-blocking’ in hospitals.

Now the county council is looking at proposals to bring both services together under the same contract – with one ‘strategic lead provider’ in each of nine areas within the county, broadly matching district or borough boundaries, with Watford and Three Rivers combined.

A report to the adult care and health cabinet panel says: “This aims to simplify the transition between services and improve flow by incentivising providers to enable people and then move them from the reablement pathway to mainstream provision, freeing capacity back into the system.

“A single contract will allow strategic lead providers greater ability to forward plan, rota and manage staff numbers and promote an enablement ethos throughout the service whilst delivering a service that can flex to meet the changing needs of individuals without them having to change provider.”

In addition, the proposals would include greater flexibility in the delivery of care with the focus on the outcomes.

The report to the cabinet panel says a move away from a ‘time and task’ approach could be replaced by a focus on the individual and their personal outcomes.

However there would still be parameters to ensure medication is taken on time and residents are not left in bed for too long.

On Thursday (April 4) members of the county council’s adult care and health cabinet panel recommended that cabinet back the proposed approach, when awarding the next contract – which is due to run from April 2020.

Following the meeting, executive member Cllr Richard Roberts said the changes to the contract would give care providers greater flexibility.

It would, he suggested, allow moves away from zero hours contracts towards regular shift patterns, which – in turn – could impact on the quality of care.

“The more regular the work is for the care workers – which is what this contract promises – the more likely the care workers will build a relationship with their clients,” said Cllr Roberts.

“Care workers want to work with the same people – this contract will allow them to do that.”