Earlier this month the National Audit Office (NAO) released a report on the current state of the care workforce. It revealed much about The Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) approach to social care. The report gave a realistic assessment of the challenges facing the social care sector and the subsequent publicity it gained may go some way to generating actionable outcomes across health and social care.
What did the report reveal?
1. Lack of workforce strategy
Government does not have an up-to-date care workforce strategy - the last time the DHSC published one was in 2009.
2. High staff turnover
Care work has a very high turnover, with a turnover rate of 27.8% in 2016-17.
3. High vacancy rate
The vacancy rate for nurses more than doubled between 2012/13 and 2016/7 and the highest vacancy rate was for registered managers, which in 2016-17 was 11.3%.
4. Underpaid and undervalued workforce
Around half of care workers were paid £7.50 per hour or below against a National Living Wage of £7.20. An hourly rate of £7.50 per hour equates to an annual salary of around £14,625, before tax.
5. Lack of funding for social care
The DHSC cannot demonstrate that the sector is sustainably funded. Between 2010/11 and 2016/17, spending on care by local authorities (including funding transferred from the NHS through the Better Care Fund), reduced by 5.3% in real terms. This is in the context of an ageing population.
Valuing care workers
The role that care workers provide is absolutely essential and will only become more important in the context of an ageing population. We know the importance of social care, but as a society we are disregarding it. The majority of us will develop care needs as we grow older and it is important that we properly value and reward those providing care if we are to meet the needs of an ageing society.
To address the challenges raised in the report, we must change our approach to a currently undervalued workforce and recognise the positive impact that they have, not only on individuals but on our communities more generally.
So what does this mean in practical terms?
Funding and efficiency
The Government’s forthcoming Green Paper is expected by the summer and may do something to address the issue of funding, and will hopefully lead reforms in the right direction. The disparity and disconnection between funding for health and social care means that Local Authorities must find ways of delivering care at lower costs. At the moment, this is increasingly leading to fewer people having access to social care. We believe the main way to maintain care levels and standards within current budgets is to innovate with a view to increasing efficiency, while enhancing the care being delivered on the front line.
Konnektis can offer a solution here, by reducing the administrative costs of care. For example, by replacing paper systems, Konnektis can reduce costs incurred in the provision and auditing of homecare provision, such as the elimination of travel costs associated with Care Plan reviews and changes. Our experience of homecare provision indicates that this cost is material and often overlooked. Since Konnektis enables Care Plans to be updated in real-time, the costs and time associated with updating paper care plans is eliminated.
Innovation to increase efficiency must not forget the individual: Konnektis also acts as an engagement tool for the person, who can access a live care schedule. We are also developing the integration of personalised applications to improve wellbeing, such as those that enable medication and long-term condition management as well as those that tackle social isolation. Our open approach means that we also integrate with existing health systems and EPRs in an effort to bridge the gap between health and social care.
Innovation and carers
We believe that innovation and the use of digital technologies is going to be essential in improving not just the efficiency of care provision but also its quality.
At Konnektis, we are dedicated to implementing change in a way that works from a carer perspective. From our early days we have co-designed in close collaboration with carers and their needs remain ever-present in our minds. We want to put person-centred care at the heart of what we do and the key enablers of this are the carers themselves.
The NAO recommends that the DHSC produces a robust national workforce strategy to address the major challenges currently facing the care workforce. We believe this strategy has to be placed in the context of a sector that is innovating and needs to innovate further. This innovation must focus on person-centred care and be driven by the professional needs of carers.
As a society, we need to re-evaluate the way we view the social care workforce. They should be praised for the essential work they do, and not taken for granted.
We must also appreciate the importance of working with carers to improve the efficiency and quality of care through innovation. This means involving them in innovation on a collaborative basis and always considering how it works from their perspective.