techUK’s new report published on 12 September addresses the need for technological advancements in the adult social care (ASC) sector, offering a road map for CareTech provision and delivery in the UK. It underlines the integral role of technology in reshaping of ASC and driving change.
The report, The Five Point Plan for CareTech, was produced in collaboration with techUK’s social care working group. It focuses on the challenges facing the ASC and the way digital innovation can improve life expectancy, enhance quality of life, and support people to be more independent.
The report makes recommendations across five themes with case studies from suppliers to the social care sector to support its digital transformation. The case studies demonstrate how working together, at a national and local level, technology can drive change.
1. Citizen-focused outcomes: How can we use tech to support independence?
This theme focuses on people who use CareTech and calls for:
- better signposting so that care service users know what technology is available for them, a ‘front door’ or library that provides an overview of CareTech support products for the full range of use cases;
- involving care service users and other stakeholders in the design and delivery of CareTech (so-called ‘co-production’); and
- de-centralised health and care records which are held and controlled by each citizen, rather than their providers of health or care.
2. Investment: How should government better invest in services and staff?
More funding is needed to support the social care workforce to address recruitment, retention challenges and increase pay. The report calls for centrally driven (Government, NHS England, perhaps Integrated Care System (ICS)) support for CareTech deployment, and training the workforce on how to use it. The benefits are wide and deep, with many care providers lacking digital automation and the ability to integrate with other stakeholders in the wider ICS. They rely on staff to support tiresome, error-prone manual processes. Change offers improved efficiency, productivity and security, and a more fulfilled and digitally skilled workforce.
3. Collaboration: How can technology support the integration of health, care and other sectors to deliver better outcomes?
4. Data and interoperability: How can we better use data to provide more effective social care?
The themes of collaboration and data interoperability refer to the smooth operational collaboration between health and care providers in ICSs, supported by digital integrations to ensure joined-up workflows and data sharing.
The report recommends giving social care higher priority and visibility within ICSs, along with housing and other critical services such as third sector and acute mental health service providers, and calls for care providers to have a ‘mandatory’ seat in ICSs, and for NHS England to drive this.
It also calls for:
- funding reform and service re-design to break the existing silos, which obstruct collaboration and data sharing, and investment in supporting CareTech;
- systematically identifying and rolling out best practice at a national scale;
- standardisation of data formats, data exchange protocols, and expansion of existing standards such as Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources to cover care data;
- systematic retirement of legacy IT because it gets in the way of secure and agile integration; and
- building consensus at ICS and national level about data sharing.
5. Industry as a partner: How can the tech industry support change?
This final theme explores the relationships between social care providers and CareTech providers. The objective is to foster innovation. On behalf of its members, techUK commits to promoting the benefits of digital solutions to citizens and carers, acting as a communication bridge between policymakers and CareTech suppliers, promoting interoperability with a view to a more joined-up health and social care sector, helping care providers to understand what is possible, and championing innovation.
The early signs are that the report is on the pulse, and that there is growing consensus among NHS health providers and care providers (with councils, housing providers and other key stakeholders). Now is the time for ambitious collaborations to re-design some key services from end-to-end, test them, then ‘spread’ the new best practice across the care sector.
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