Supporting social care providers to adopt care technologies through a new investment fund

Alice Ainsworth, deputy director for adult social care technology policy, sets out NHSX’s support for the sector this winter, including a new investment fund of £8 million

On 18 October, we launched a new £8 million fund to support social care providers to adopt care technologies that help prevent falls. Half of people over 80 will experience a fall at least once a year, with many experiencing a fracture and requiring hospitalisation. As well as life altering effects on older people, falls cost the NHS over £2 billion a year.

Most falls happen in the community but many also happen in care homes. Here, the use of innovative tech, such as acoustic monitoring, could reduce falls by 20% or more.

This new NHSX funding for social care is set out as part of the Adult social care: COVID-19 winter plan 2021 to 2022 that was published today. It is available to Integrated Care Systems as part of NHSX’s Unified Tech Fund. To be successful ICSs will need to demonstrate significant involvement from care sector partners including local authorities and care providers.

As well as falls prevention technology, funding can be used towards Digital Social Care Records and improved infrastructure such as internet connectivity or mobile devices. In particular, we know that Digital Social Care Records can dramatically improve care quality and safety, allowing real-time sharing of information about someone’s care - but right now the majority of social care records are on paper.

As part of the winter plan, we are also working through all NHS regions to support local systems and the care sector to be able to provide remote monitoring for up to 83,000 people for whom home is a care home by March 2022.

This builds on the digitisation support that was delivered last winter.

Last year NHSX provided 11,000 data-enabled iPads to care homes to help residents and staff to connect safely to health professionals and loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic’s social distancing and shielding. We negotiated discounted internet connectivity deals for care homes, accelerated access to NHSMail for more than 14,000 care settings and supported the rollout of proxy access to medication ordering, saving care staffs’ time on administrative work.

We also worked with care system suppliers to integrate GP Connect into care records so frontline carers could access vital information about people’s care in a digital format directly from the GP record. Much of this was delivered in partnership with NHS Digital and with the support of many in NHS England and regional teams.

Working with sector and industry partners, we have also made a range of other support available to care providers and local authorities.

  • We have formed a partnership with Digital Social Care, a consortium of national care bodies, to support adoption of Digital Social Care Records with buyer guidance, tools and templates, and monthly masterclasses, run for care providers by care providers. The next masterclass will be held on Tuesday 23 November and will focus on Bringing People with You.
  • We have significantly expanded the direct support available to help providers meet the threat of cyber attacks, including through guides to improving connectivity within care settings, and meeting data security and cyber protection standards.
  • Working with partners like Skills for Care, we are developing a digital champions programme to support the care workforce to develop their digital skills and share their learning with their peers.
  • And, in partnership with the Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, we have launched a digital support offer to councils. Delivered by Rethink Partners and co-produced with the sector, it will run for six months and will include masterclasses, online resources, coaching, leadership development and communities of practice. Three councils will receive bespoke support through the Strengthening Sector Capability programme, and five through the Digital Leadership programme.

If you want to find out more or share work you’re doing to digitally transform social care, please get in touch with us at adultsocialcare@nhsx.nhs.uk.