Creating a new NHS England: Health Education England, NHS Digital and NHS England have merged. Learn more.
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 integration and collaboration between health and care, we must get the basics right.
Last year’s People at the Heart of Care white paper included a commitment to invest at least £150m from April 2022 in digital innovation which improves the quality and safety of care.
The Digitising Social Care team in the NHS Transformation Directorate comprises both NHS and DHSC staff all of whom bring an element of sector knowledge or experience to their work. It’s this understanding of how our work can benefit the sector and make a difference to the people receiving care which drives everyone in the team here.
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.
If you have a question you can get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
What are we working on?
Digital Social Care Records (electronic care planning tools)
One of the foundations of our work is to support the White Paper target of ensuring that 80% of CQC registered providers are using electronic care planning solutions (digital social care records) by March 2024. We already know through our benefits evaluation work that moving to a digital social care record approach can save at least 20 minutes of a carers admin time daily. And in the longer term it puts the sector on a firm footing to integrate and share data across systems.
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 implement digital care record systems we have provided support and guidance to the sector including
- 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
Visit the Digital Social Care website for more information and regular updates.
Care Tech to support people at home/independent living
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.
Within People at the Heart of Care we committed to launching a scheme to use care technology to help people live independently in their own homes for longer.
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.
Care technologies can be used by an individual, their carer or care provider to support quality of life and the provision of high quality, safe and personalised care. As part of £25 million being made available in 2022/23, we will enable ICS to adopt sensor-based falls prevention and detection technologies, with an ambition to support the 20% of residents who are identified as at high risk of falls in CQC registered care homes by March 2024. This will be based on local needs assessments.
Care Home connectivity/digital migration
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.
- Adopting new technology relies on good internet coverage and we know that this can vary among providers. We’re working on how care home connectivity can be improved so that everyone is able to benefit from digital innovation
- 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.
- We commissioned a survey to understand what this the shift from analogue telephone lines to digital technology would mean for adult social care and telecare services
- We will publish the results of the survey together with an action plan for the sector, including local authorities, to ensure that in ensuring care-tech (such as alarm systems used by private individuals at home) continues to work on digital phone lines.
- Looking ahead, the move to digital telephone lines is also an opportunity to consider how digital technology can deliver better outcomes for individuals through a more personalised and preventative approach.
Technology on its own will not be successfully adopted without equipping the adult social care workforce with the confidence, skills and support to embed digital ways of working. To ensure the social care workforce has the skills and confidence to use technology, as set out in People at the Heart of Care, we will provide a comprehensive digital learning offer that includes accessible training and online resources to build transferrable digital skills.
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 developing a range of options to ensure we continue to offer practical guidance and support tailored to the needs of the social care sector. We have already delivered two free training programmes to support social care professionals, working in partnership with Skills for Care and the National Care Forum. 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.
We are now working to evaluate the training to help shape a scaled-up future digital learning offer, which will include the provision of new e-learning. In Spring 2022 we published a draft digital skills framework and training database to help employers and social care workers to plan their learning and development. Sector consultation is continuing to help shape the next iteration of this framework. Further work is planned to develop a digital skills self-assessment tool for adult social care, working closely with Health Education England.
The Digital Skills and Training pages on the Digital Social Care website provide more detail around our work in this area and the resources available to the sector to ensure that everyone, regardless of their level of experience or role, has access to support to gain the skills they need to benefit from digital innovation in social care.