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Launching the adult social care technology innovation and digital skills reviews

Today sees the publication of two important reviews on technology innovation and digital skills in adult social care. Rachel Falconer (Policy Lead on Skills and Evidence) reflects on the key findings and how we will use this research to help drive digital transformation across the social care sector.

Digital technologies have tremendous potential to improve adult social care (ASC). Among their many benefits, they can increase people’s care choices and independence while freeing up staff time for more one-to-one care. But so far, despite pockets of evidence demonstrating these and other benefits, little was known about barriers to developing new technologies for ASC and the conditions needed for their diffusion across the sector. There was a similar gap in the evidence on digital capabilities among the ASC workforce and whether they could find opportunities to learn new digital skills.

To fill these evidence gaps, in June this year we invited representatives from across the ASC sector to contribute to two reviews on the extent of digital technology use and digital skills in the sector, and how both could be scaled up. Research for the reviews, carried out by Ipsos MORI, the Institute of Public Care and Skills for Care, involved widespread consultation across the sector. Researchers collected over 2,750 survey responses and conducted nearly 200 interviews with individuals representing the ASC workforce, care providers, local authorities, unpaid carers, people with care and support needs and technology suppliers.

The findings and recommendations of the reviews are hugely important not only for NHSX but also our partners across local government, industry and the social care sector. We will draw on the reviews to speed up our programme for ASC Digital Transformation now under way, using their evidence and insights to focus our efforts where they will have the most impact. This programme, building on the progress of the government’s draft data strategy for health and care, will set the standards and future direction for digitising social care in support of the government’s wider social care reforms.

One vital requirement made clear by the reviews was the need to match spreading awareness of care technology and its benefits across the sector with funding and support for new technology procurement. We have made a start on meeting this need, in the form of the Digital Social Care information and guidance platform, a new £8 million fund to help social care providers adopt care technologies, and support for procuring digital social care records. But we recognise there is more to do.

On digital skills, the reviews highlight the need for targeted learning and development, from basic skills training through to support for digital leaders. In the coming months, with our partners Skills for Care and Health Education England, we will publish a digital skills framework tailored to the needs of the ASC workforce. Following this, we will put in place a comprehensive digital learning offer that will ensure all staff have the confidence and skills they need to use technology to provide even better care.

Our commitment to invest in technology adoption in adult social care is outlined in today's Department of Health and Social Care White Paper, People at the Heart of Care (you can read more about that on our blog). But our efforts can only bear fruit if we continue to work closely with the ASC sector; those who draw on care and support and their carers, local government and industry.

Early in the new year, we will host discussion events to consider ‘where next’ in response to the review findings. These events will be an open forum for sector representatives to reflect on the review findings and recommendations, and help to choose priorities and next steps.

We also plan to chair a roundtable discussion with care technology developers and suppliers to consider the review recommendations. This will look at opportunities for technology companies to work with Government, care providers and end users to drive caretech innovation.

If you are interested in finding out more about these events, or have questions about the review research, please email adultsocialcare@nhsx.nhs.uk

For the full published reports, please visit the Ipsos MORI website.