New projects aimed at transforming the use of digital technology in adult social care to provide more care at home and reduce pressure on the NHS have been awarded a total of more than £3 million.
The four projects, funded through the government’s Adult Social Care Technology Fund, will ‘drive independence for those in care’ and ‘help identify care-focused technology solutions that have the potential for wider rollout within the sector’, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.
The DHSC hopes the new technology being piloted will help ‘reduce avoidable hospital admissions’.
Helen Whately, minister for care, said ‘more care at home and more personalised care is what people want’, adding that it also ‘helps reduce pressure on the NHS’.
Shropshire Council will spearhead plans to use funding of almost £1.2 million over two years to embed technology in people’s homes, alongside a virtual care delivery service.
‘This aims to support independence in the home, help people manage their daily needs and promote self-care,’ the DHSC explained.
Charlotte Hall, the programme’s manager at the council, said the service was ‘particularly beneficial to individuals who live in rural, hard to reach areas in the county, where it can be difficult to find care availability, or for those who are reluctant to have carers entering their homes, but require some degree of care and support to enable them to remain independent and in their homes for longer’.
She said the funding would enable the project to expand, ‘reaching more people and allowing us to test new approaches to social care delivery’.
Meanwhile, Reading Borough Council, in partnership with Henley Business School, will use funding of just over £1 million to trial the benefits of sensor technology to ‘monitor any significant changes to a person’s daily habits that may cause concern’, the DHSC said.
It added that the aim of this project was to support people to have ‘sustained or increased independence’, as well as ‘a sense of wellbeing, safety and security’.
In addition, the National Care Group will receive nearly £350,000 to improve the quality of medication management and recording, and promote independence in taking medication, using an Electronic Medication Administration Record System.
‘This will improve the accuracy of recording medication and improve health outcomes for the 1,236 people supported,’ the DHSC said.
Finally, NHS Greater Manchester and the University of Manchester and partners will receive almost £380,000 to deliver a project to determine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of using a digital falls prevention programme for older people living in the community who receive care and support at home.
A personalised falls prevention programme will ‘incorporate health literacy games to improve the awareness of activities that promote bone health, diet, safety at home and hydration’, the DHSC explained.
Ms Whately said these projects will ‘develop and scale up’ the use of technology in social care, ‘better meeting people’s care needs and helping us build a sustainable care system’.
She said they ‘will use technology to improve quality of care and help people live independently for longer’.
The government is ‘investing in digital care records to join up care and reduce the burden of admin on staff’, Ms Whately added, with the DHSC estimating that digital care records can save up to 20 minutes spent on administrative tasks per care worker per shift.
As of September 2023, more than 55% of care providers regulated by the Care Quality Commission had adopted digital social care records – an increase from 40% in December 2021. According to the DHSC, 1,300 care providers can now access GP records ‘to provide safer care’.
Professor Vic Rayner, chief executive of the National Care Forum, added: ‘Opportunities like these, and the advancements we’re seeing in shared data, particularly the aims for digital care records, help us to envisage a future of a truly integrated health and care system which gives people more independence and control over their own care, and keeps their needs at the centre.’
Also last month, Care England called on the government to ‘immediately unlock essential funds’ for all local authorities, to ensure the sector’s services are uninterrupted, after Birmingham City Council ‘declared itself effectively bankrupt’.
Meanwhile, a new report suggests the social care system has the potential to deliver a huge return on investment if the government provides urgently needed funding to prevent further fragmentation of the sector.