Social Care White Paper commits to accelerating the adoption of technology

Social Care White Paper commits to accelerating the adoption of technology

On 1 December 2021, the government published their ‘People at the Heart of Care: adult social care reform’ white paper which details plans to accelerate the adoption of technology and using the full potential of technology to support people’s lives and aspirations.

Today’s white paper announced that at least £150 million of new funding will be made available over the next three years to deliver a programme of digital transformation for the social care sector. This funding is a welcome investment into the growing digitisation of the sector and builds on commitments first outlined in the Data saves lives: reshaping health and social care with data strategy. Throughout the pandemic, digital technologies have been transformational in supporting people receiving care, care workers and care organisations and, according to the white paper, in a recent survey 90% of care providers said they will continue to use technology as they have during the pandemic.

The white paper shows a clear direction of travel: the government plans to increase the use of digital technology, continue to focus on integrating software systems with the NHS and promote the adoption of digital social care records. There is also recognition that there has historically been a lack of reliable data available at a national level to support decision making. The rollout of programmes such as the Capacity Tracker represented a step-change in the availability of data about the sector but was not without its controversies. The commitment to rationalising the data collection from the sector is a welcome one and we hope that providers are involved with discussion about what this data set is and how it will be used so that the data burden on care providers doesn’t increase.

However, we are well aware of the barriers to digitisation which many in the sector face, particularly the need for staff to have access to fast, reliable and affordable internet connections. We welcome the department’s commitment to delivering fibre broadband upgrades to care homes and that they will be working in partnership with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the telecommunications industry to ensure that home care providers are also supported to access the infrastructure they need to work digitally. We hope that this work will also reduce digital exclusion often faced by older adults and people with disabilities.

There is a clear recognition within the white paper that care providers need more support to be able to continue their digital transformation journey, particularly in terms of the need for additional training to support the development of digital skills in the sector. It is good to see a clear commitment to developing digital training programmes and leadership qualifications for the sector.

We have been working with NHSX to support the department’s commitment that 80% of adult social care providers will have access to a shared care record by 2024. To date, this has included research and expertise to inform the development of the assured suppliers list and our masterclass series to share best practise from care providers who have already been through their digital transformation journey. We will continue to work in partnership with the Digitising Social Care Records programme, ensuring that care providers have a seat at the table to ensure that their needs are met throughout.

Integration between the health and social care sectors has been of increasing importance over the last few years, and we look forward to the forthcoming integration white paper to understand the government’s plans in this direction. In many parts of the country, we have already seen incredible benefits for people when services are more joined-up and the data needed to provide high-quality care is available to the right people, at the right place and at the right time. As we see more integration into NHS systems, good cyber security practices must be in place to safeguard people’s information. We are pleased to see an ongoing commitment to building on our existing Better Security, Better Care programme.

Michelle Corrigan, Programme Director of Better Security, Better Care – the national programme to help adult social care providers to improve their data and cyber security – says:

“While increasing numbers of care providers welcome digital technology – they are not data and digital experts. Small and medium-sized providers, in particular, need support to manage the data protection and cyber security issues that come with the increased use of data and digital tech.

“We, therefore, welcome the White Paper’s commitment to building on the Better Security, Better Care programme which has already helped thousands of care providers to review and improve their policies, procedures and practices by using the Data Security and Protection Toolkit. We will be sharing what we have learned from the programme to date and look forward to continuing to work with care providers and government departments on this important issue.”

Notes to editors

About Digital Social Care

Digital Social Care is a national programme that provides advice and support to the adult social care provider sector on technology and data protection. The programme is led by care providers, working in partnership with NHS Digital and NHSX to support the digital journey of adult social care providers in England, and improve the quality of care.

Digital Social Care believes that digital innovation gives us the opportunity to:

  • Improve the quality of care
  • Be transparent and accountable
  • Support individuals to remain independent for longer
  • Improve the quality and efficiency of information sharing between health and social care.

All their material is open source and free to use

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Photo by Heidi Fin on Unsplash

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