Transformation Directorate

Care homes to benefit from tech to help residents keep in touch with loved ones

Staff and person living in care home using technology to access health and connect with loved ones
  • Care homes will be given free iPads to help residents stay connected to their loved ones this winter
  • iPads will stop the spread of the virus by reducing unnecessary visits while still allowing residents to connect with friends and family
  • iPads will also allow staff to access healthcare information quickly and easily, and set up virtual NHS consultations where appropriate to reduce risk of infection

Care homes will be given iPads to help residents keep in touch with their loved ones and reduce the risk of loneliness as part of plans to ensure the social care sector is supported throughout winter.

Up to 11,000 iPad tablets, worth £7.5 million, will be distributed to thousands of care homes across England to support residents and staff and reduce the risk of infection from people going into homes as coronavirus cases continue to rise. 

The iPads will also mean care home staff can easily access digital health services, including virtual appointments for residents when appropriate, to further reduce the risk of transmission from visitors.

Earlier this month the Government launched its Adult Social Care Winter Plan backed by a £546 million Infection Control Fund and the offer of free PPE for providers until March.

Each tablet device will be ready to use straight out of the box and include a 12-month support package and also, for care homes without full access to wifi, a data-enabled SIM card.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said:

“With coronavirus cases rising the need for infection control measures and social distancing is more important than ever for those living and working in care homes. However I know how challenging the current situation is staff, residents and families, particularly when loved ones can’t visit.

“These tablets will be the gateway for so many residents to connect with loved ones, and allow staff to quickly access digital NHS services and information, to help stop Covid-19 outbreaks in their tracks.”

The iPads will make it possible for care homes to:

  • Connect residents with loved ones remotely
  • Hold video consultations with medical professionals, and easily organise face to face appointments.
  • Enable care home staff to reorder medications on behalf of their residents and update information in their GP records
  • Enable care home staff to reorder medications on behalf of their residents and to access info in their GP records.
  • Use NHSmail (a secure NHS internal email service)
  • Use any other applications and tools that they feel support the care of their residents

Minister for Care, Helen Whately said:

“We’ve set out our plan to make sure social care has what it needs throughout winter to keep coronavirus at bay and provide the care so many rely on. But we know one of the hardest things during the pandemic has been the restrictions on visiting, keeping families away from their loved ones.  

“I have heard from many people about the pain of not being able to visit, not being able to hug or even hold the hand of their husband or wife, father or mother. I know iPads won’t solve this problem and connecting via a device doesn’t work for everyone, but it will help some families stay in touch. 

“Some care homes have also found remote consultations with GPs really valuable during the pandemic, so for those who don’t have the devices to do so, these iPads will make a difference.

“This is one more step in our strategy to support social care to look after those most at risk from Covid during this winter.”

The Adult Social Care Winter Plan set out tightened infection prevention and control measures to enable visits to continue safely where possible. Any area listed as an ‘area of intervention’ must immediately restrict visiting to exceptional circumstances only - such as for the end of someone’s life. 

They will be prioritised for care homes that don’t have enough modern devices, or struggle with their internet connection. The iPads comes with a data enabled SIM card.

Staff across social care are already embracing new ways of working including increasing use of digital solutions to help them support those in their care. NHSX is working with local authorities, social care providers, and NHS regions to ensure that ahead of winter care providers in England can access healthcare information and have the technology and digital tools they need to support their residents.

Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, said:

"Technology has huge potential to improve the lives of care home residents, from helping them stay close to their own families to fixing an online consultation with their GP.

"NHSX is committed to ensuring we realise the true potential of technology in patient and public health and this mass-rollout of tablets is just one of the steps the NHS is taking to support the sector ahead of winter."

While the NHS will always make sure someone in care can see a clinician if necessary, the iPads will supplement face to face health appointments with video consultations where it is the right thing for an individual's care needs.

As well as pre-bundled software, the iPads will have easy-access links to NHSmail, the MS Teams app, the Digital Social Care website and Apple Care (for technical support).

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said:

“Communicating with families and with other professionals is vital during this difficult period and we welcome the distribution of iPads, which should enable care providers to have better access to NHS support, and also enable people to keep in contact with their relatives.”

IPads, selected because they are the only tablet device that will enable care home staff to access their residents' summary care records, will be prioritised and allocated to eligible care homes according to need and based on information provided by care homes when they apply.

The rollout of the IPads will be supported by new guidance to enable authorised and trained care staff to order regular medications on behalf of their care home residents online, reducing the administrative burden on staff across social care, general practice and pharmacy.

This is on top of discounted broadband deals being offered to care providers to help improve their connectivity.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

“Councils are already working closely with their care providers to help keep people who use and work in social care connected and informed, such as helping with remote assessments and staying in touch with loved ones.

“These iPads will make a difference to those care homes which may not have access to this technology or have less reliable internet connections, to make sure their residents and staff can fully get the care and support they need, particularly as we head into winter and face the risk of rising infections.”

Notes to editors

  • Care providers and CCGs will be given further details on how to apply for a free iPad shortly
  • To apply, care homes should complete a simple order form, more information here on Ipad offer web page
  • Care homes are eligible for 1-2 iPads based on the number of devices they currently have to the number of beds
  • The £7.5m deal includes distribution, a 12-month support offer, data enabled SIM cards for those that need them and the technology pre-installed on the devices