Last month Panorama’s Care in Crisis documentaries threw a stark light on the funding crisis facing the care sector. Now that the dust is settling and attention is already being diverted, it is important to ensure that the issues raised, and still very much present, are none the less addressed.
By focusing on social care provision in Somerset, the BBC exposed how government funding cuts have impacted the ability of local authorities to meet the costs of social care services. The programmes revealed the deeply damaging effect this has had on care commissioners, residents, families and care providers, alike.
Technology has a crucial role to play in helping reduce costs and strains in the social care and health care system by helping keep people in their homes and independent for longer.
Electronic care planning systems such as everyLIFE’s PASSystem provide crucial support to domiciliary care providers and help reduce costs for providers by improving efficiency through cutting down on time consuming paperwork.
Local authorities are also looking into other types of technology to help people stay in their homes and look after themselves.
In Hampshire, the council has developed a one-stop digital hub to encourage independence, health and inclusion.
The centralised information hub enables Hampshire residents to find local information and advice about living independently within their community and can be used by voluntary organisations to promote their services and by health services to support social prescribing.
The Connect to Support Website was launched in mid-2016 and the accompanying mobile app with offline functionality followed in late 2018.
Its website and app are being actively used by a growing number of Hampshire GPs and work is now underway to integrate Connect to Support Hampshire with the NHS Directory of Services for the area.
The aim of the initiative is to signpost vulnerable people towards specific information to pre-emptively address care, support and health needs before they escalate.
For example, users can gain access to information and community listings about falls prevention.
Similarly, the information is designed to help people and their families make informed choices about their care by allowing them to compare the prices of different types of services.
Meanwhile, in Shropshire the council is using data to shape social care and healthcare service provision by predicting and preventing demand spikes and better using resources.
The project, which is being delivered in partnership with NHS Digital, the Local Government Association, West Midlands Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and local partners from across Shropshire, enables smarter commissioning of services.
Using predictive analytics and artificial intelligence, commissioners are able to better understand current trends in demand and therefore better predict and prevent future demand, resulting in a more efficient use of resources and better outcomes for service users.
Known as The Bridge, the technology uses demographics, gross value-added and other socioeconomic information to visualise the economic impact of commissioning decisions across an area. Through combining thermal mapping and social data, The Bridge is also able to map areas of ‘invisible demand’, enabling preventative measures to be put in place to avoid costly intervention and help people stay in their homes for longer.
With the Local Government Association warning that councils face a £1bn funding gap in 2019/20 to cover the cost of running services, there is a clear urgent need to fully utilise technology to ease pressure on services.
By Andrew Mason