Central Bedfordshire Council a digital social care workforce

Care technology when considered as part of a holistic support offer means it can be used effectively to support people’s independence and positively impact on their lives.

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Care technology when considered as part of a holistic support offer means it can be used effectively to support people’s independence and positively impact on their lives. Taking a simple approach to upskill staff in digital and technology skills, better utilise an existing community equipment contract and embed care technology into social care assessments has resulted in a culture change within Central Bedfordshire Council and has resulted in an estimated £800,000 savings and a successful referral rate of more than 95% for care technology referrals. 

This case study by Central Bedfordshire also provides an example of work which fits within our What Good Looks Like for Adult Social Care, particularly success measures Support Workforce and Empower People. 

The challenge

Central Bedfordshire Council traditionally offered telecare, or care technology, delivered through a local housing association. After the initial referral from social services there was no further link or feedback between the care technology provided and ongoing care from social services, this mean the services were disjointed and not working as effectively as possible. Only 45% of referrals for care technology were successful. There was a significant opportunity to improve the way people were supported through the use of technology. The challenge was to ensure that technology was holistically considered at the point of social care assessment and more effectively used to support people.   

The solution

The aim is to make care technology a fully integrated part of the care and support arrangements in Central Bedfordshire. This was split into stages with the initial stage focusing on three main pillars:

  • Build care technology into care assessments
  • Have a basic catalogue of care technology equipment
  • Develop method for provision and management of care technology

In 2020 there was the opportunity to expand the service agreement with the existing community equipment supplier, Millbrook, to include care technology. This was used as the opportunity to think differently about the care technology offer. 

The solution developed was to upskill council staff to prescribe care technology as part of the care and support offer. This meant that council staff would assess and prescribe care technology with the community equipment supplier providing and managing the care technology as set out in the social care prescription. 

The plan did not include largescale investment in new technology but rather focused on existing equipment with a few new additions. A catalogue of the care technology equipment was developed so staff could see and understand what technology options there were. To begin with simple online training modules were created for staff to work through. This was aimed at all care and support officers who can prescribe. 

In April 2021 the service went live enabling council staff to prescribe care technology from the catalogue of available equipment. 

Initially a specialist care technology occupational therapist was employed to support and advise staff on how to consider and prescribe technology. This has now grown to a small team of two occupational therapists who specialise in care technology and one administrative support.  It has been particularly valuable in supporting staff on complex cases. 

The impact

The impact has been improved efficiencies. As part of the prescription for care technology staff needed to include what care and support, they have replaced or prevented. For instance, if they prescribe a medication dispenser, they will record the number of medication visits that have been avoided. This allows the efficiencies to be measured from the beginning of the programme. 

Within year one there was £800,000 reported savings. Year two reported close to £1 million and year three is expected to breach over £1 million. There are now around 50 people referred a month and there is a 95-98% rate for successful installation compared to 45% of previous referrals. 

From people using care and support there is now a greater choice in how they can live independently at home. The most prescribed care technology is to assist with the risk of falls. Although the greatest impact for people and their loved ones has been care technology to help with people who wander, this has in many instances been a mobile GPS device with an alarm call button or a voice message linked to the front door. 

Staff involved in care assessments can offer more creative solutions based on the persons needs and staff are more open to innovatively think about solutions. This has enabled more of a focus on people. 

How is the new approach being sustained

The programme has not focused on significantly changing the care technology provided or largescale investment but upskilling staff and ensuring all staff are appropriately trained. This provides a strong level of sustainability. 

Over the course of two years, and with the specialist team and technology champions, there has been a culture change amongst staff who now see this as an essential part of their role. With many staff proactively seeking to improve the way care technology is used with social services. 

Since November 2022, the council has been transiting over from analogue equipment to digital and all people will be transitioned over by March 2024. This will ensure there are no issues for people because of the digital switchover.

Work is continuing on the next two stages to integrate care technology into care and support arrangements which includes:

  • Encouraging home care providers to integrate care technology in their business model
  • Social care staff led development of the care technology catalogue
  • Encouraging use of data from care technology to drive care provision
  • Wider range of care technology available
  • Development of self-assessment and purchase options for people who fund themselves
  • Data from care technology to begin to inform care assessments
  • Use data on quality of life impact to inform the care technology selection

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