The Health and Care Act 2022 came into force in April 2022 and delegates to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care two new powers in relation to data collection within the adult social care sector.
The new powers
From 31 July 2022, the Department of Health and Social Care can require CQC-registered adult social care providers to disclose to them information on: (i) the provider themselves (ii) their activities in connection with the provision of adult social care and (iii) any person to whom they have provided adult social care.
From November 2022, the DHSC will have the power to impose financial penalties on providers who do not comply with an information request pursuant to the power above or provide false or misleading information.
Subsequent regulations are due to set out the detail of the enforcement power, how it will be applied and the level of financial sanctions.
In practice, providers will be required to produce a core subset of data to the DHSC on a monthly basis. The data provided must be accurate, no more than a week out of date, and be supplied via the capacity tracker already in place. The first set of data is due on 14 August 2022.
The mandatory information required falls into five broader categories:
- Care home bed vacancies;
- Workforce resource;
- Covid-19 vaccination;
- Flu vaccination (September to March only); and
- Visiting information.
In addition to the above mandatory monthly data, DHSC may require more regular, localised updates so that providers can be supported in a more concentrated manner. Information required varies between care homes and domiciliary care providers.
Whilst the pandemic created demand for widespread data sharing, the new powers are designed to facilitate the supply of stronger data sharing practices and robust data flows in the adult social care sector.
Mandated data sharing will allow the DHSC to better understand capacity and risk levels in the system, determine how best to support providers on a national and at local level, and ultimately help facilitate a consistent, nationwide level of care to individuals across the adult social care system.
Whilst the pandemic saw an acceleration in the use of data across the adult social care sector, it remains unclear how prepared most providers are for mandated data collection. The shortfall in initial data maturity from areas of the sector will likely have a knock on effect to the quality of the data collected, thus potentially limiting the DHSC’s ability to provide focussed support.
However, over time, and subject to how the penalty element of the new powers are applied, making the sector more capable of readily sharing data will change how services are commissioned and supported. The aim to provide more focussed support to providers, and thus better, safer care to individuals, is well timed given the increase in Covid infection rates and the roll out of further Covid and flu vaccination programmes in the autumn.