A row has broken out over claims that home carers are being given just 15 minutes at a time to wash, cook and care for elderly and needy patients.

The claims have been “categorically denied” by Bradford Council, but now the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, is demanding an urgent public inquiry into the whole adult care system.

The care workers’ union has described the situation as “scandalous” and says it is “appalled by the desperation and misery being heaped on our members and the vulnerable people they care for.”

And a spokesman for elderly people in Bradford says the flying visits are “intolerable.”

Coun Sunderland said the adult social care system was “bursting at the seams” and stories from carers about providing 15-minute care to cook, clean and wash, as the Council drives down costs had left her “anxious and worried”.

She wants all aspects of social care investigating including domiciliary care, home care, and day care as well as hearing from care providers, those receiving help and those delivering it. The way budgets are aligned would also form part of the inquiry and whether social care should be combined with health budgets.

Coun Sunderland said: “I talked to a carer almost in tears as she had just 15 minutes to say hello, put the kettle on, cook food for the patient, wash them and then they have to go.

“What is that doing to someone with dementia or who is slightly confused?

“I am extremely worried that Bradford has moved to spot purchasing care packages in 15-minute slots.

“I met a blind person and the only help he gets is with his shopping. The Council said they could deliver, but for him it is having the company and feeling the sun on his face.”

Jean Walker, chairman of Bradford’s Older People’s Alliance, said that some people’s only contact came from those 15 minutes, where carers could not talk because of time constraints.

“That is intolerable,” she said. “They talk about us being independent at home but there is no back-up service and that home becomes a prison.

“I heard from a lady in her 90s who had to choose between having her bed changed or be showered.”

Chris Jenkinson, UNISON regional manager Yorkshire and Humberside, said: “There should not be 15-minute visits because that is not enough time to provide care and make sure clients are safe. The dignity and respect of clients should always be paramount.

“That is a scandal that must be ended and we are appalled by the desperation and misery being heaped on our members and the people they care for.”

Coun Sunderland called on the executive Council member responsible for adult social care, Coun Amir Hussain, who has already conceded the system is in crisis, to lay the service open to scrutiny in the form of an immediate Commission of Inquiry by the Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee, a request which he has flatly rejected.

Coun Hussain also denied that 15-minute checks were replacing proper care. He said: “It has always been part of home care and it’s impossible to give washes and all that in 15-minutes and we are not doing that.

“If Jeanette has some concerns she needs to tell me. I can categorically deny what she is saying, it is not true.”

On the subject of a public inquiry and a ban on 15-minute spot checks, he said: “I don’t think anyone can demand that kind of thing without having the understanding of services.

“What do you actually have a public inquiry about?

“I don’t feel any need for one. Everybody knows we are in crisis.

“We are striving to provide the best possible care that we can with the resources that we have available.”

Keith Nathan, the chief executive of Age UK Bradford & District, said: “Government cuts are forcing the councils into impossible, and subsequently harmful, decisions. So focusing on the results (local services) without looking at the principal cause (central government cuts) creates an inaccurate picture.”