Digital transformation can dramatically improve the quality and safety of care: helping people to live happy, fulfilled lives in their homes and communities.
Despite this, there remains significant disparity in the use of technology in the social care sector. Many providers have inadequate broadband connectivity and staff are often not equipped with the right skills to enable effective use of digital tools.
If we are to unleash the potential of digital technology and enable closer joint working between the health and care system, we must get the basics right.
The NHSX Adult Social Care Digital Transformation team consists of a Policy Team and a Programme Team. Together we are championing a person-centred approach to the use of technology and data in the adult social care sector, improving the quality and safety of care, understanding the barriers to adoption and tackling digital and health inequalities.
Through an equal and integrated partnership with health, we can support people to live well and independently for longer. The ethos of this work is one of partnership and co-production with the adult social care sector and we work closely with the sector to achieve this vision.
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The Department of Health and Social Care’s White Paper People at the Heart of Care sets out an ambitious 10-year vision for how the government will transform support and care in England. New funding for the workforce, housing and innovation and new ways of working will give people more choice and control over their care and support to live independent lives.
Underpinning these proposals is the transformative potential of technology. Putting people at the heart of care, means putting them at the heart of technology and digital transformation. It means supporting them to purchase and use the technology that best supports their goals, and helping people to live their lives as they want. You can read what this means for digitisation in adult social care on our blog. Also read our review of technology innovation and digital skills in adult social care.
Programmes of work
Unified Tech Fund - Digitising Social Care
To unlock the power of digital technology, In October 2021 we launched an £8 million Digitising Social Care fund as part of the Unified Tech Fund.
This fund will help ICSs to scale up adoption of Digital Social Care Records within the care sector, enable them to unlock the power of technologies that help prevent falls and ensure providers have appropriate high speed internet that enables their clients to access remote NHS services and keep in contact with their loved ones. The outcome of the ICS projects will help inform policy and scaling options for future years.
We know there are at least 1.8 million people using technologies to support their care and benefitting from regaining more choice, control and dignity in their lives. Digital tools can also be used to identify risk, prevent incidents from occurring and ensure quick and appropriate responses to avoidable events such as falls, urinary tract infections, medication errors and bedsores.
The pandemic saw unprecedented digital working in the social care sector, with technology used to support people to stay in touch with family, friends and care teams. Despite this, there are still immense opportunities to accelerate the use of innovative care technologies to support the delivery of care.
To ensure our work is underpinned by evidence, in partnership with Ipsos MORI and Institute of Public Care we published a review on the use and effectiveness of technology in social care, and specific barriers to adoption and scalability across the sector. The review recommendations are already helping to inform our work and will continue to shape our future planning.
For example, we have launched a programme to scale care technologies to deliver proven benefits, with funding in place to test ideas, scale and build the case for change. We will work closely with sector partners to co-produce a shared road-map of priorities and support care providers to adopt proven technologies through implementation support within each integrated care system.
Digital Social Care Records
Alongside the adoption of care technology, we will also be supporting providers through the Digitising Social Care Records (DSCR) programme. This programme is aiming for 80% CQC-registered adult social care providers to have access to a digital social care record that can interoperate with a local Shared Care Record by March 2024.
A Digital Social Care Record (DSCR) allows the digital recording of care information and care received by an individual, within a social care setting, replacing traditional paper records. DSCRs are person-centred and enable information to be shared securely and in real-time with authorised individuals across the health and care sector.
DSCR will play an important role in joining up care across social care and the NHS, freeing up time spent by care workers and managers on administrative tasks whilst equipping them with the information they need to deliver care. They are the platform on which other remote care tools can integrate and can enable the greater personalisation of care planning that focuses on the individual.
To help social care and NHS organisations make the switch to DSCR NHSX has worked on providing support and guidance to the sector which includes:
- launching an Assured Supplier List providing organisations with quicker and easier access to a list of quality-assured, supplier solutions that comply with a minimum set of capabilities and standards for digital social care record solutions
- working to provide a suite of care provider guidance which includes masterclasses, buyer guidance, model contracts, template commercial schedules, template specifications and device guidance
- partnering with Digital Social Care to provide a national support offer to the sector - this partnership includes a series of monthly care provider masterclasses, run for care providers by care providers
- supporting nine Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) from across the country to deliver small-scale pilots to help inform our plans for supporting the care sector in future years
Please visit our NHSX Digitising Social Care Records FutureNHS page for more information and regular updates.
Our programme on infrastructure supports the realisation of a fully digitised sector. This is so that social care providers and staff can make the most of digital tools. This will help us move toward an integrated health and care system that delivers joined-up care.
To support efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic and reduce the risk of infections, we delivered discounted internet connectivity deals, and provided 11,000 data-enabled iPads to care homes. We also supported access to NHSMail for care providers so they could receive vital information about people pre-discharge from hospital in a digital format. To build on this work, we’ve developed connectivity guidance in partnership with Digital Social Care to guide decision-makers through different internet connections and device options. For the ~1000 care homes lacking up-to-date infrastructure, we will ensure they have access to fibre upgrades, enabling the high speed connections needed to make use of digital tools.
To support guidance around the digital switchover, we have commissioned a survey to gauge the current challenges and opportunities the shift from analogue telephone lines to digital technology will bring for adult social care and telecare services. In a telecoms industry led move, the analogue/landline telephone network or PSTN (public switched telephone network), will be migrated to digital technology (VoIP - ‘voice over internet protocol’) by 2025, but with much of the migration taking place before then.
Anonymised results from this new survey will be published in the new year as part of a report alongside guidance for the sector, including local authorities, to support it in ensuring caretech continues to work on digital phone lines.
Technology on its own will not be successfully adopted without equipping the adult social care workforce with the skills and support to embed digital ways of working.
Together with partners across the sector we are developing a range of resources and development opportunities to support a step-change in the skills, confidence and capabilities of the workforce. This work will include targeted digital leadership support for decision-makers who can drive change at a leadership level within their organisations, and providing a comprehensive digital learning offer that includes accessible training and online resources, as well as practical guidance on using technology in all care settings, to enable the sector to drive its own digital transformation.
In collaboration with Ipsos MORI, the Institute of Public Care and Skills for Care, we published a review exploring current levels of digital skills across the workforce, the barriers and enablers to learning and development and the skills required for effective digital working, both now and in the future.
Informed by this research we are exploring a range of options to ensure we continue to offer practical guidance and support tailored to the needs of the social care sector. Going forward the review findings will continue to help shape our policy direction, and we will continue to work closely with sector partners to decide on priorities and next steps for supporting workforce development.