Cheerful older lady using a smartphone

By David Lynes, Managing Director of Unique IQ

I spent an inspiring few days last week at the TSA’s ITEC conference. It always excites me to discover new tech-lead projects that are driving up standards of care and are helping people live safely, independently and well.

Amongst the many interesting themes was how technology can be truly integrated into adult social care, a topic on which a joint commission from the TSA and ADASS has recently released its findings. And it really got me thinking.

The sector has talked about the need for a radical new model of care for some time. Heck, we spent most of 2020 talking about how the COVID pandemic was the catalyst that was needed to drive digital transformation in the care sector.

So it was gratifying to see some shining examples of change made real, with a genuine impetus for person-centred care behind it. But for once it was the public sector leading the way.

One such example was Carmarthenshire County Council’s Delta Wellbeing programme – a first of its kind telemonitoring service in Wales. The service is based on the principle of early intervention, making proactive wellbeing calls to reduce the demand on more formal social care. During the first lockdown, advisers contacted 18,500 people, signposting them to self-help resources, neighbourhood support and simple technology to combat isolation. The result was significant – with 41% of people redirected away from typical social care services, up from 7% before the pandemic, reducing the demand on council resources during a challenging period.

Martin Bell of LaingBuisson recently said that it was the 170 year old piece of technology called the telephone that has really come into its own during the pandemic. And reflecting on the Carmarthenshire project he is not wrong! But I digress.

As the Carmarthenshire case study shows, there is growing momentum now in the public sector for meaningful change. Not just putting iPads into the hands of the elderly. But making funding available in conditions that are favourable for some really quite revolutionary advances. Innovation is no longer the realm of the equity-backed private sector.

However, as Iain MacBeath of ADASS has pointed out, whilst there are many pockets of innovation and better practice across both the public and private sectors, they rarely get joined up and turned into intelligence to make improvements system-wide. This is probably one of the biggest stumbling blocks for the institution that is ‘health and social care’, as it tries to move closer together.

That aside, from the Welsh Government’s Transformation Fund, to NHSX’s work towards Shared Care Records, to the many and plentiful innovations from the independently-run home care organisations we enjoy working with, the time really is now for technology-enabled social care. After so much talk, for so long, I’m excited to be a part of the action.