National Care Forum feature: Dear Diary...

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"Dear Diary....

Tech Transformation is Coming were (almost) the first words of the new Secretary of State in his first formal address last week.  

Most definitely, music to my ears – and words that I hope he will continue to pursue as he gets more embedded in the brief. 

From the man who said ‘I'm the greatest enthusiast of technology on the planet’ last Friday, it is surely a positive fillip for the beleaguered social care sector that here is a leader who not only sees the need for transformation – but has some clear ways in which this could happen.

Now before this turns into a rather painful Dear Diary moment, the reality checks need to start here. We currently have a very significant budget for tech transformation within the health services (and I chose my words carefully) of £4.2 billion – much of the work of which came under the broad heading of ‘Personalised Health and Care 2020’, or the paperless 2020 programme. The transformation of social care was certainly in the sights of that programme, but the investment to date in the sector has been poor and largely directed through local authorities – rather than directly to social care provision.

So, I suppose it was with no great surprise, I listened to the details of his first public speech on his brief, including the announcements about funding, with a gradual sense of deflation as it became increasingly apparent we were not going to get a call out in dispatches. I get the fact that it is difficult to talk about ‘the detail’ but in this case, it really is the detail that matters. I love the headline in last weeks’ news ‘some hospitals are still reliant on archaic fax machines’ (not sure how much investigative journalism went into that headline – but a quick trip to pretty much any care home in the country would have sufficed). So whom do they think they are faxing? Social care - let’s try and get the headline right - actually at present significant chunks of an individual persons journey through the integrated care and health system are reliant on ‘archaic fax machines’ and there is absolutely no point in getting rid of them in one part of the system - if you don’t address the data transfer issues across the board.

So whilst I really welcome the new Secretary of State giving it full barrels on this issue, please tell the full story so we can get all parts of the system in line, and ensure the real panacea, the vision of technology that enables a truly person centred experience. One where passage between services is ‘frictionless’ (as popular parlance would have us wish for), and the full power of ‘tech for good’ is embedded in every health and social care service across the country.

I was reading some transcripts of his speeches as Minister in the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and I was particularly taken by his comment around how the UK could become a truly tech driven nation. I hope he is able to take this thinking forward in influencing his department thinking about how to enable tech across the whole system, “We can’t do this alone in Government, just as private companies can’t do it alone either.”

Workforce and Prevention

It would be remiss of me to mention the other very positive news that emerged last week in relation to the new Secretary of State’s priorities on taking office – which were – in this order – Workforce, Technology and Prevention. Putting aside technology for one moment – the focus on the workforce and prevention are very important in terms of defining a brief that stretches across health and social care, critically because they can apply in both a health and care setting.

Yes, it is true his first statements in relation to workforce talk of his ‘love’ of the health workforce, but in his first week he was out and about in a care home, talking to staff about their work and publicly acknowledging the excellent care he encountered. Plus the tweetathon that emerged from Fridays announcement included the following all-encompassing statement  "To health and social care staff @MattHancock says: I have a clear message for you: I value you. I admire you. I will fight for you and I will champion you #NHS”.

In addition, we know from previous statements the Care Minister, Caroline Dinenage MP (soon to be appearing at the NCF Managers Conference on 12 November) is also a very vocal champion of the care workforce. We also know steps are in place for the development of the national social care recruitment campaign and a workforce strategy, the first for many years to take in social care, and these will appear on the horizon through the Autumn mist.

I mentioned in recent weeks my personal passion for prevention, and again it is excellent to see this embodied in his priority list – and of course positive to be using the language of the Care Act 2014. This is, as I understand it, is most definitely upstream prevention that he is interested in, and again the opportunity to recognise social cares very explicit contribution to supporting independent living and preventing access to more acute services - from both residential and home care services – is evident.

So, potentially reasons to be cheerful, and give a little whistle as you stock pile your cans for the future..."

Read the original article and more from Vic Rayner here