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05 Apr 2023
by Alex Lawrence

Government publishes next steps on People at the Heart of Care white paper – what does it mean for tech?

Following the publication of the People at the Heart of Care white paper [December 2021] the Government has now set out plans to further digitise the social care sector and support the workforce, including detail on the allocation of previously announced funding.

Key announcements include a Better Care Fund framework (BCF), setting out national conditions, metrics and funding arrangements from 2023 to 2025, and a call for evidence on a new care workforce pathway, aiming to increase career progression opportunities. 

Overall techUK welcomes the plan and many of the priorities set out – it is encouraging to see due attention paid to the use of digital and technology in social care. However, the enthusiasm must be matched by government investment, and it is concerning to see the decision to hold back half of the £500m promised to help plug staff shortages in care and digital social care records.

Detail on the allocation of previously announced funding includes:

  • £100m to accelerate digitisation, including investment in digital social care records
  • Up to £35m for a new innovation and improvement unit to explore creative solutions to improve care
  • £1.4bn for a Market Sustainability and Improvement Fund (MSIF), which local authorities can use flexibly
  • £50 million to improve social care insight, data and quality assurance - including person-level data collections and new Care Quality Commission assessments of local authorities
  • £1.6bn to improve hospital discharge arrangements - £600 million next year and £1 billion the following year

[A summary of funding promises can be found here.]

It is positive that the Government has recognised that adult social care lags behind the NHS in its digital working and that this can often result in disjointed transitions for citizens moving between the two settings. It is also encouraging to see the importance of joint-working called out, with the plan stating that the Government “will continue to work with partners in ICSs, including local authorities, the NHS and other relevant organisations, to share and embed best practice and shape future national policies and projects.”

We would urge the Government to engage with the digital care and technology industry on this – techUK called for a national platform for best practice sharing across health and care and between ICSs in our report, Right from the Start, as the spreading of excellence across the country is key to improving care and reducing inequalities.

This report from techUK also called for improved demand signalling across the NHS and social care. It is good to see that this plan promises that technologies will be tested, evaluated and scaled based on local priorities, but we urge systems to ensure that these priorities are communicated to the technology industry in order to allow the sector to ready itself and ensure solutions are developed for real world problems.

It is also great to see the importance of improving cyber security called out. If you are interested in sharing your views and finding out more, techUK is teaming up with the Joint Cyber Unit at NHS England to organise a Cyber in Health and Social Care Summit.

While we welcome the recent announcements on next steps to support social care, the paper still falls short of the aspiration for co-produced, innovative models of care outlined in People at the Heart of Care. Although the announcements cite substantial digital ambition, this is not backed up by sufficient funding to help bridge the gap between the aspirations of people who draw on support and the current reality. Technology can help better manage demand within the care system by supporting people to live independent lives on their terms. Digital can help address some of the pressing challenges around skilling, recruitment and retention in the care sector. Data can be used to deliver personalised services, to prevent escalations, and to support more efficient running of the health and care system. However, none of this is possible without consistent and substantial funding for both local authorities and care providers, allowing them to unlock the opportunities technology promises.

Helena Zaum

Chair, techUK Social Care Working Group

Of further interest to the technology sector:

  • The Government is asking for expressions of interest from ICSs to fund care technologies that help reduce avoidable hospital admissions
  • New national data collection will begin to provide better information on care journeys and outcomes
  • By Autumn 2023 the Government will aim to publish the first care workforce pathway and launch a finalised publication of Care data matters
  • The new innovation and improvement unit will develop a 2-year programme of work to test and scale the use of digital tools and new operating models
  • The plan outlines a scaled-up future digital learning offer so that digital skills are embedded in core training and development opportunities for staff
  • Person-level data collection will be introduced from April 2023, helping to show which interventions work best 

Digital transformation in adult social care - key milestones

Spring 2023:

  • integrated care systems begin activity for financial year 2023 to 2024 to support the testing and scaling of care technologies
  • guidance published on ‘what good looks like’ for digital working in social care

Winter 2023:

  • all assured digital social care record systems will enable care provider staff to view primary care information, where appropriate, for people in their care

Spring 2024:

  • all assured digital social care record systems will capture a minimum data set for social care providers, providing a standardised set of information that can be shared between care settings
  • evidence base published following the testing of care technologies where they have demonstrated benefits to the safety and quality of care delivery
  • 80% of CQC-registered providers, and at least 80% of people, have a digital social care record

Spring 2025:

  • published update to the evidence base of care technologies that have demonstrated benefits to the safety and quality of care delivery

A key milestones timeline is available here.

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Alex Lawrence

Alex Lawrence

Programme Manager, Health and Social Care, techUK