Stepping out of the shadows: Social care prepares for a digital future

Technology offers the potential to transform the social care sector and care homes will need to adapt and evolve to ensure they aren’t left behind.

Traditionally, healthcare has lagged behind many other sectors in terms of its approach to digitisation1, and even on the spectrum of healthcare provision, the adoption of technology in social care has been minimal. However, with the sector facing substantial challenges, it’s an approach that must change if social care is to have a viable and vibrant future.

1 Consultancy.uk (2020) ‘Telecom, hi-tech and banking are digital transformation leaders’ [Online]. Available at consultancy.uk/news/24935/telecom-hi-tech-and-banking-are-digital-transformation-leaders

Opportunity in challenge

Social care in the UK faces a number of challenges, including: 

  • In 2018/19, more than 250 care homes, some 3,000 beds, were lost in the UK as providers went out of business
  • The number of requests for social care funding received by local authorities was up 5.7%, but fewer were met (down 1.7%)3
  • The UK population is ageing. By 2043, the number of people aged over 65 is set to increase by 43%, whilst those over 85 will increase by 87%4
  • By 2035, the number of people with two or more chronic health conditions will reach almost 10 million5.

The challenges are stark, but can be turned into opportunities by forward-thinking and broader engagement with technology.

2 The King’s Fund (2020) ‘Social Care 360’ [Online]. Available at kingsfund.org.uk/publications/social-care-360
3 The King’s Fund (2020) ‘Social Care 360’ [Online]. Available at kingsfund.org.uk/publications/social-care-360
4 Office for National Statistics (2018) ‘Population projections’ [Online]. Available at ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationprojections
5 Economic and Social Research Council (2018) ‘Multiple chronic conditions: an emerging healthcare challenge‘ [Online]. Available at esrc.ukri.org/news-events-and-publications/evidence-briefings/multiple-chronic-conditions-an-emerging-healthcare-challenge/ 

The pandemic response

Covid-19 has undoubtedly placed additional strain on the sector and magnified existing pressures, but the pandemic also presents an opportunity for wider and systemic transformation. 

The response to Covid-19 has shown the incredible resilience of care homes when faced with unprecedented challenges – as well as their willingness to think outside the box. 

Societal shifts

The future delivery of care is very much in focus. Government policy to address chronic obesity6 and encourage active lifestyles, the increasing use of technology to enable people to live independently for longer (a key part of the NHS Long Term Plan7), and the rise of personal responsibility and proactive healthcare, could delay the need for residential care and reduce the average length of stay.

Care homes must adapt, whether to provide more specialist assistance, offer a combination of residential and domiciliary services, or promote the community aspect of care home provision.

6 Department of Health and Social Care (2020) ‘New obesity strategy unveiled as country urged to lose weight to beat coronavirus (COVID-19) and protect the NHS’ [Online], Available at gov.uk/government/news/new-obesity-strategy-unveiled-as-country-urged-to-lose-weight-to-beat-coronavirus-covid-19-and-protect-the-nhs 
7 NHS (2019) ‘The NHS Long Term Plan’ [Online]. Available at longtermplan.nhs.uk/publication/nhs-long-term-plan/ 

The ideal future care home 

Technology will undoubtedly play a far greater role in the ideal care home of the future, providing efficiencies and potential cost-savings, and creating a better patient experience. 

Changing expectations will increase demand for convenience, transparency and accessibility. Our vision for the future combines technology with humanity, leveraging the very best digital solutions to deliver care that’s proactive, responsive and personalised.

Technology will undoubtedly play a far greater role in the ideal care home of the future.

Steve Fergus

Head of Healthcare, Barclays Corporate

In this report, we consider: 

  • How technology will change the way care is delivered 
  • New models of care 
  • The potential to create a more efficient future. 

The report includes contributions from industry experts: 

  • Dr Cosima Gretton, Academic Foundation Doctor at Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Fellow of the Digital Health Forum 
  • Steve Carefull, Adult Social Care Expert at PA Consulting Group 
  • David Rees, Head of Local Government Services at PA Consulting Group 
  • Shaleeza Hasham, Owner, CHD Living 
  • John Tonkiss, CEO, McCarthy & Stone 
  • Jennifer Estherby, HealthTech Lead, Barclays Eagle Labs.

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