Suffolk County Council launched Cassius, their county-wide digital care service in July 2021 delivered in partnership with Alcove and Rethink Partners. This was the culmination of several years of planning and research, the development of a digital care strategy and an extensive procurement process for a digital care partner (paused during Covid-19) that ran for over a year.
Suffolk County Council launched Cassius, their county-wide digital care service in July 2021 delivered in partnership with Alcove and Rethink Partners. This was the culmination of several years of planning and research, the development of a digital care strategy and an extensive procurement process for a digital care partner (paused during Covid-19) that ran for over a year. Cassius is a care technology service that offers a full range of digital products (e.g. remote monitoring sensors, wearables, falls aids, communication devices) that are fully compatible with the new digital infrastructure and are designed to take advantage of the data opportunity created through the digital switch.
Prior to Cassius, Suffolk County Council did not have a countywide care technology offer for staff and residents to use. Some district councils in the area run telecare services but these were not commissioned by the council as part of care and support packages. Access to other types of technology was ad hoc and down to individual social care professionals or teams.
The social care leadership team at the council were increasingly interested in exploring the impact and benefits of a much more ambitious and proactive approach to technology, building on best practice from across the world. And the appetite in social care was aligned with Suffolk’s aspirations as a leading technology council. With a relatively clear starting point and no analogue legacy, the team at Suffolk were able to plan for and implement a bold programme of transformation and change by commissioning a cutting edge technology and service offer that went straight into the digital world.
The digital technology offer
- Room and door sensors and plugs, which passively tracks movements and activities. It does not include video or sounds. Links to data portal
- Alexa Smart speaker for reminders, music, information, and to link to other devices. Links to data portals
- Digital sensor mats to be used on bed, chair and floors. Links to portal
- Wearables to help people go out and about independently and can access support should they need it. Can link to monitoring centre
- Video Carephone-Easy-to-use communications device for two-way video calls. Provides reminders and messaging options too and links to a data portal.
Nine months on from the launch of the service the impact has been:
- A milestone of 1,000 referrals was achieved at the end of March; the number of eligible service users in Suffolk is c9,000 so Suffolk are well on their way to achieving their ambition for everyone to be offered technology as part of care and support
- Financial benefits: The gross savings associated with the first 1,000 referrals are £2.2m; the net benefit (excluding the cost of the technology, service and mobilisation costs) is £900k of which £250k was cashable with the remaining £650k as recordable cost avoidance (i.e. reduced planned growth in care budgets). This is above plan. Savings are assessed and reviewed by social work professionals to maintain confidence and quality.
- Outcomes and satisfaction with the technology are high with residents, staff and families. Outcomes and impact are tracked by social work professionals as part of their core work. Confidence, feeling safe, and feeling better connected to friends and family have all improved significantly.
- Engagement work and trials have begun with care providers – homecare and reablement have been priority areas of focus – to encourage them to use the technology as part of their work.
- Faster progress than expected has been made in engaging NHS colleagues in the work and linking the technology into a wider NHS digital programme including discharge pathways and virtual ward developments
Key learnings from this work include:
- reliability and resilience: whilst problems with connectivity were expected, there have been almost no installations where a connection could not be achieved; sometimes boosters or roving SIM cards are used in lieu of broadband. So far, resilience of the technology has been good with very few outages, and revisits to reset devices have not been needed. This technology has been designed for a digital infrastructure.
- skills and confidence amongst staff, partners, residents and families are all increasing, but this takes a lot of time and support.
- culture change: a wrap around culture change programme including training, communications, briefings, case studies, events, process redesign and a range of engagement activities has been essential and will be on-going for some time to come. Achieving take-up and penetration initially, and then continuing to develop the way that technology is used and embedded is essential and requires resource and expertise.
- procurement: whilst the Suffolk procurement process was lengthy, the inclusion of 2 dialogue phases was key to success. The Council refined it’s requirements through the dialogue process and strengthened it’s understanding of what the market could provide and how they wanted the partnership model to operate. Modelling of savings and value creation (rather than just focusing on cost) was an essential component of this process.