The UK government's white paper, People at the Heart of Care, takes a wide look at the care sector, making proposals about aspects ranging from training and qualifications for staff to expanding supported housing options. One key proposal, however, involves a pledge to provide at least £150 million to drive greater adoption of technology and achieve widespread digitisation across social care.
So, what are the government proposing, and how do they see the role of digital technology changing the care sector?
Why Is Reform Needed for Digital Technology in the Care Sector?
As in other sectors, the care sector's need for digital technology has been transformed by the Covid pandemic. Carers have been able to use technology to keep in touch and access vital information, and in a survey, 90% of providers said they intend to continue using digital technologies.
However, that raises questions about how it's going to be used, and who by. The findings suggested that 23% of care home staff don't have consistent access to the internet at work, while 45% of providers considered that their employees don't have adequate digital skills. Clearly, this has to change.
What Technologies Need to Be Introduced?
The white paper proposes a national Caretech scheme, building on the local government Social Care Digital Innovation Programme, which will test new ideas. A major focus will be to protect the most vulnerable 20% of residents in care homes by introducing technology that will reduce falls.
The white paper sets a target that at least 80% of care providers should be using digital care records by 2024. Besides improving quality and efficiency within the service, it will also improve joined-up care.
The white paper pledges ensuring infrastructure for care providers, including high-quality broadband connections, and switching over phones from analogue to digital. It's noted that all the updates proposed will require improved cyber security, and providers will be encouraged to adopt the Data Security and Protection toolkit (DSPT).
The white paper promises to provide training to improve the digital skills of care staff. It's also proposed to set up a new Centre for Assistive and Accessible Technology, to identify how to meet the technology needs of disabled people in England.
How Will the Proposals Improve the Care Sector?
By saving time and making care staff's job easier, the introduction of digital technology into the care sector can identify risks, prevent many incidents, and ensure a quick and appropriate response to any medical or other incidents that do happen. The white paper identifies advantages for the various groups from developing technology:
People supported and their families will be able to manage their care more efficiently by having a wide choice of appropriate digital tools available to ensure independence, safety, and well-being. They'll have immediate access to comprehensive and accurate social care plans that are driven by the person's individual needs and wishes, while families will be able to routinely access real-time information about their loved one's care.
Social care providers and staff will be able to enhance the quality of the care they provide through technologies that digitise care records. Digital technology can also slash the time taken over administration tasks, including drawing up care plans and creating the means for quick and accurate handovers. It will ensure that multidisciplinary teams can all work from the same information and according to the same plan, in order to deliver the best possible care for the person's specific needs.
Commissioners, ICSs and NHS partners will be able to use technology to coordinate the care of individuals in the community and following their discharge from the hospital. They'll also be able to get a better understanding of the overall needs of local populations.
The government proposes to consult and work with a wide range of stakeholders to identify the best means of delivering the proposals in the white paper. This includes publishing a social care technology blueprint, as well as developing advice on "what good looks like" for social care technology.
However, you don't need to wait for the government in order to make some of the proposed improvements. Get in touch with us to find out how you can improve the quality and efficiency of your processes while saving time to spend more of it with the people you're caring for.