Communicating digitally in social care

By Claire Sutton RN (Adult), Digital Transformation Lead, National Care Forum.

Social Care is a sector that is facing ever more complex challenges. A hot topic for care providers at present is digital communication. Late last year Matt Hancock – Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced that all fax machines would be phased out of the NHS before April 2020. But where does this leave the care sector – much of which communicates with it’s health service partners by fax? There is a real concern that by April 2020 care providers could find themselves even less able to communicate with their local primary and secondary care NHS organisations than they currently are.

NHSmail is available for care providers, and completion of the Data Security and Protection Toolkit (DSPT) opens up the option for care providers to use secure email to replace fax communications. Requests to GPs and pharmacies, discharge summaries from hospitals, and referrals to community services should be able to be sent and received via email rendering the fax machine obsolete for communicating sensitive information. But how easy is this to access for care providers?

Research has suggested that the number of care providers using digital solutions is relatively low. With some experts suggesting this figure could be as low as just 20% of the sector, so clearly we have a long way to go to ensure that care providers are fully digitised, but the opportunity to get up to speed with what is now just 6 months away is very much available to care providers. There are a number of key sources of information around completing the DSPT and accessing NHSmail with guides published on and as well as local resources such as those being run by Healthy London Partnership which are all free to access by care providers nationally.

As a registered nurse I have first hand experienced the difficulties faced in a care home when communications do not run smoothly, I’m sure colleagues across care will recognise the frustration of having a person arrive from a hospital stay with no discharge summary and a patient belongings bag stuffed full of newly prescribed medications with very little explanation or handover. The reality of this situation is that an unsafe discharge can result in a hospital readmission which whilst frustrating for care and hospital staff, can be detrimental to the person affected and hardly represents the person centred approach to outstanding care provision that we all strive to deliver. Nobody wants to have to wait on the phone, or by a fax machine to exchange information that can be absolutely critical to the care they’re trying to provide and NHSmail can go some way towards solving this very real issue.

The journey to accessing NHSmail as a care provider does not have to be a difficult one, the DSPT has been formed in collaboration with care providers to ensure that the questions are understandable and relevant to the social care sector and ‘Entry Level’ is available solely to the care sector until the end of March 2020 meaning that in order to access an NHSmail account as a care provider you only need to meet 14 of the self certification assertions.

Will the April 2020 deadline for Axing the Fax really happen? Plans are very much underway, and social care is in a great position to engage in the process and lead the way by requesting that their health service partners communicate by secure email with them right now.

Find out more about Driven by Health

A nation that can wait no more…

For anyone reading ahead of the Queen’s speech, there might have been a little flutter of excitement – as the weekend papers talked of big news for social care, promises of legislation and details of how care might be funded. The reality on the day – yet another promise of jam tomorrow.

The Queen stated – ‘My government will bring forward proposals to reform adult social care in England to ensure dignity in old age’. Well, that sounds a lot like the waiting game continues. Anyone rushing to the briefing note for greater enlightenment will have been even more disappointed to note that the ‘reform’ agenda for social care sits under a sub heading of – you guessed it – ‘Supporting the NHS’!

Aside from the obvious alarm that the government appears to have gone backwards in its understanding of adult social care, reverting back to green paper announcement version 1 (cast your mind back a year or two) which only looked at older people, there is the additional worry that there is no timescale attached to this reform.

When was the sector that supports millions of people receiving or giving care,  and that employs over 1.5 million people is relegated from the ‘steps of downing street’ priority list to the too difficult to promise pile? If, as is widely suggested, we should read this as an outline manifesto for any future Conservative government, then the time for action is now. Local MPs, Peers, Ministers, Secretary of States and the Prime Minister should be under no doubt that social care is an electoral priority and that reform cannot wait.

If we needed further evidence of the need for immediate attention, then the arrival today of the CQC State of Care 2019 report should leave us in no doubt. This annual aggregation of learning from inspections across the health and care sector gives us the hard data that underpins the argument for change now. The State of Care report highlights again the pressures across the health and care system, workforce shortages and the urgent need for system wide workforce planning to provide stability in the sector. It adds its voice to the imperative for a long-term sustainable funding solution, seeing it as an essential element to provide stability in the social care sector. It also draws attention to the need for better integrated community services. The overall picture the report paints for the care sector is one of perpetual challenge. There is widespread unmet need, providers are continuing to exit the market and CQC has twice had to exercise its legal duty to notify local authorities of a credible risk of service disruption due to provider business failure (utilising their market oversight function). There are decreases in both residential and nursing homes, and ongoing growth of the domiciliary care market.

The report shines a much needed light on the dire consequences for people with a learning disability or autism not being able to access the right care and how that can mean that they end up detained in unsuitable hospitals. CQC’s ongoing thematic review, which began in 2018, highlighted the prolonged use of segregation for people with severe and complex problems who should instead be receiving specialist care from staff with highly specialised skills.

The report does celebrate some success, and recognises that despite all this, there has been some improvement in the ratings for adult social care, with 80% of services now being rated good or outstanding. In addition, there is a strong focus in the introduction around innovation and the use of technology. We know that this sits alongside a number of recent initiatives that CQC has launched around ‘sandboxes’ for innovation. Reinforcing the adage that technology must be an enabler, rather than a driver of high quality care, the report provides an encouraging narrative about the role of technology in care, but guards against the ongoing piecemeal approach to adoption and the lack of joined up thinking in this area between commissioners and providers. All sentiments that we would echo.

It is hard to hold the CQC report – detailed and diligent in its findings on the state of care and the urgency with which reform needs to happen – alongside a timetable for parliamentary priorities which appears to kick the social care can once more down the road. Mr Johnson – if you are listening – this is a nation that can wait no more…

NCF welcomes Langdon Foundation into membership!

We are delighted to welcome Langdon Foundation into membership with NCF.

Langdon Foundation are a charity which provides employment, supported living and social services to Jewish people with learning disabilities.

Follow them on Twitter – @langdoncharity

NCF welcomes Martlets Care into membership!



We are delighted to welcome Martlets Care to the NCF membership.

Martlets Care is an award-winning domiciliary (home) care agency, supporting adults of all ages with medical and mobility care needs in Brighton and Hove and surrounds to stay in the comfort of their own home – offering a gentle, reliable hand and consistent care companionship that makes life easier and enjoyable.

We’re one of only a few social enterprise ho me care agencies in existence. And all our profits are paid forward to the renowned and much-loved Martlets hospice who support people living through a terminal illness and provide practical care and emotional support for their family and friends.

Follow them on Twitter – @martletscare

Call for an Older Persons Human Rights Convention

On the UN International Day of Older Persons, 1 October, The Five Nations Care Forum, comprising eight national social care organisations, added their voice to the urgent call for a United Nations Convention on the Rights of Older Persons.

Globally, between 2017 and 2030, the number of persons aged 60 years or over is projected to grow by 46 per cent (from 962 million to 1.4 billion).

This day is an opportunity to highlight the important contributions that older people make to society and to raise awareness of the opportunities and challenges of ageing in today’s world.

Older people have always played a significant role in society, yet they are at risk of ageism, discrimination, poverty and disability, because their rights are not respected.

Old age is something which should be valued, but societal attitudes fail to recognise the benefits and potential of older persons. Old age is seen as a challenge rather than an opportunity.

Across the UK and Republic of Ireland we join the call, led by HelpAge International, for a new convention on the rights of older people. We believe that this is a crucial way to make sure that all people enjoy their human rights in older age, and on an equal basis with others.


Notes for editors

1. The Five Nations Care Forum enables representative care organisations for England, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales to explore shared agendas in relation to models of care, registration, regulation and social care policy. For more information see:

2. For further details on the importance of the Convention click here

3. Enquiries to [email protected] / 07584 659995

Workforce – the global challenge

I was privileged to represent NCF and our members at last week’s Global Ageing Network conference in Toronto, Canada. It was clear at this international event – that what united us – was greater than that which divided us. One part of the invaluable programme was the hosting of a global workforce summit, where colleagues from across the world came together in Toronto to see what could be learned from viewing the issues of social care workforce together.

The wrong kind of ‘synergy’?
There was incredible crossover in terms of experience. Whether we were hearing about the workforce across Europe, from colleagues from Africa, those operating in North America or respondents from Asia – the message was the same. We have a growing demand for, and a falling supply of our current mainstay of staff who are working in social care. Whilst the term crisis was not officially part of the narrative – the point was made explicitly clear by our host from Canada – that they were facing a very significant challenge from the government to increase provision – with no clear thought about how or where those additional workers would come from.

Success stories?
We heard about some stand out success stories. The excellent work that is going on in Pennsylvania to support the older Asian population. The Penn Asian Seniors service was borne out of a lack of appropriate service for Asian older people, and through strong leadership, a service has developed that not only has grown phenomenally over a short period of time, but has an enviable retention record, and has developed a responsive model that recognises the key components of community, language and culturally appropriate care. We also heard about, and I later went to visit, the exciting Living Classroom that has developed in one of the Schlegel villages in Ontario. Here they have brought the student learning environment into the care home environment. Students learn the theory, then head upstairs to try out the practice with care home residents. The positive relationship generated between students and residents is palpable, and the high level of interest in securing jobs within the village after training is acknowledgement of how powerful the impact of learning on site had been.

Reaching out?
The data from across countries showed that the traditional demographic for care staff – women in their 40s to 50s is shrinking. The mismatch between supply and demand is well noted, but the alternative solutions and approaches are not so well demarcated. There were some marvellous pockets of best practice – and it was fantastic to hear about organisations who were changing their work patterns and recruitment to suit all range of employees – offering term time only contracts, job share opportunities for all roles, hiring for the heart – training for the skill. I was also valuable to hear more about the key importance of adopting flatter hierarchies and the positive impact that had on staff determining and managing workloads. One of the speakers anticipated that there is the potential for the front line worker role to grow by about 80% – given the right leadership and support to encourage staff to take the initiative and deliver truly person centred care. In addition, of course, the future role of technology in enabling workers to deliver to their maximum human capacity, as other roles become more automated. We were also challenged to think about whether we have really thought about how we put forward the proposition of working in social care in a way that will appeal to millennials and generation z – or whether we are still stuck repeating what we think that Generation X, Y and even Baby Boomers will want to hear.

Who holds the key?
It was clear that the solution to this workforce crisis does not sit with individual providers alone. Yes – there is work that they can and should do – but ultimately this was something that needed real traction from politicians across the globe. It was also apparent that this issue runs wider than domestic policy, particularly when established solutions have relied on the creation in parts of the world of a mobile workforce which moves to support the needs of other countries. This targeted approach to bolster domestic supply has a definite shelf life. The parameters of the global population are changing. An ageing society is no longer the sole preserve of the Western World. The whole world is ageing fast, and that means that the global demand for the care workforce will increase at a rate that requires a concerted action across countries to address the burgeoning shortfall – and the time for that action is now.

Fulham players surprise ex-soldier at Royal Star & Garter

A disabled soldier who was injured in Iraq was surprised by a visit from two Fulham footballers.

Midfielder Kevin McDonald and defender Cyrus Christie dropped in to meet die-hard Fulham fan Stephen Vause, 32, at The Royal Star & Garter Home in Surbiton.

The visit on Tuesday, 17 September was organised by staff at the Home, who form close friendships with the residents and love to arrange treats and surprises for them.

Stephen was presented with a Fulham shirt signed by the squad, and a signed book featuring press cuttings from Fulham matches over the years. He was also promised two tickets to a match of his choice this season. The players were also taken to the Physiotherapy room where Stephen regularly works out.

Stephen was just 19 and on his first tour in Iraq, serving with the 4th Battalion The Rifles, when he suffered brain injuries in a mortar explosion near Basra. The attack left him severely disabled.

The Royal Star & Garter Homes cares for ex-Servicemen and women and their partners living with disability or dementia. The Charity has been caring for Stephen since 2015.

Following the visit, Stephen said: “I had no idea they were going to turn up. I’m feeling very grateful. It was amazing.”

Scotland international McDonald spoke of his admiration of the Home and Stephen. He said: “Every day we get a lot of kicks that cause a bit of pain, but then we meet guys who put their lives on the line for their country. It puts everything into perspective to meet people like this. When you consider what Stephen’s been through it’s an honour to meet him.”

Cyrus Christie’s brother was in the Army for 10 years and served in Afghanistan. The Irish international said it was “humbling” to meet Stephen and added: “He’s a true inspiration.”

To support Stephen and other veterans like him, please click here

RNBT’s Centenary Care Home project

New Naval Care Home for Veterans in Portsmouth 

RNBT, the largest naval benevolence charity, and with our headquarters in Portsmouth, is in advanced discussions with the aim of building a new Care and Nursing home of 66 beds in Portsmouth, including dedicated dementia care.  The Trust already runs a Care Home in Gillingham, Kent, but has concluded that the needs of naval veterans and spouses in the Portsmouth area mean that a naval Care Home should be built here.

‘Another hundred years of care’ 

The Trust is passionate about celebrating its centenary by reinforcing support for the naval veteran community, and have much pleasure in announcing our plans to build a brand new, state-of-the art care home in a location where it is most needed – in Portsmouth, the Home of the Royal Navy – with facilities to support those living with dementia, all within a caring environment which reinforces the camaraderie and shared experience of a life of service in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines as an enduring legacy of support for our naval veterans.

Following an extensive review of available sites, the trustees have decided to enter into a partnership with a national developer who has already bought a site in Portsmouth.  The detailed proposal has now been presented as a formal planning application to Portsmouth City Council.


The chosen site is a plot of land which forms part of the St James’ Hospital site in Milton, Portsmouth, which is earmarked for development.  It is next to a public park and the Portsmouth & Southsea CC cricket ground, and is well supported by public transport links.

The new Care Home will be a purpose-built 66-bed 3-storey building to a proven design, featuring a lounge and dining room on each floor, a coffee shop, hair salon, library, garden room and cinema, surrounded by landscaped gardens.  It will be a fitting home-from-home for naval veterans from the Portsmouth area and beyond.




Fundraising target

Although over 60% of the cost of the project has been met, the project requires very substantial funding support to turn the project into reality.  A fundraising target of £5m has been set, and a number of military charities and organisations have been approached.  More donations are needed!

We are recruiting! Policy, Research and Projects Officers – Social Care

We are looking for two Policy, Research and Projects Officers to support the work of the National Care Forum, the leading voice for not for profit care providers. NCF supports its members to improve social care provision and enhance the quality of life, choice, control and well-being of people who use care services. We work directly with not for profit providers of care and support services across the UK offering a wide range of services including, home care, housing with care, day care, intermediate care, outreach, dementia care, residential and nursing care, and specialist provision for all adults and older people.

The roles offer an exciting opportunity to work within the not for profit care sector. The roles are varied and include supporting our members, contributing to influencing/ thought leadership work, project management and support across a range of innovative projects.

We are looking for:

 Excellent project management skills
 Strong policy, research and analysis skills
 Excellent literacy, digital literacy and communication skills
 Excellent interpersonal skills, and the ability to work effectively in partnership
 Ability to work as a member of a team
 And an interest in the care sector

We are looking for two excellent candidates – ideally one based in the West Midlands (Coventry office available or home based) and one home based in the North West or Yorkshire and Humberside. However, location can be flexible for the right candidate. Regular travel and overnight stays are likely to be part of both roles.

The posts are full time, and salary is £32,000.

CLOSING DATE: 3 October 2019


For an informal discussion about this role please contact Liz Jones, NCF Policy Director, from 23 September: 07748 411679  [email protected]


Policy, Research and Projects Officer Job Description

Policy, Research & Projects Officer Application Form

MP James Brokenshire opens rail Rempod at Riverdale Court

Riverdale Court residents and staff were delighted to welcome James Brokenshire, Conservative MP for Old Bexley & Sidcup, to officially open their recently purchased virtual rail carriage.

The Railway Rempod is a reminiscent OR reminiscence scene that creates the feel of an authentic train carriage with replica furniture, decoration and accessories that takes people with dementia back in time and on a journey through their local landscape. The Rempod has transformed an entire room to create a familiar and stimulating environment for residents which can relieve boredom and depression whilst improving mental wellbeing and help with memory loss.

Home Manager, Nicolas Kee Mew commented, “We were thrilled James could join us for the official opening of our rail carriage. We have had our eye on the Rempod for some time as we have many residents at Riverdale Court who used to commute to work by train. We felt that a rail carriage would be a great way to help evoke memories of working and commuting which would then spark conversation and support interaction between residents…

He continued; “Often we have found the simplest of topics can lead to
lengthy conversations and discussions at Riverdale Court. I am pleased to say the Rempod has done just that and we have already seen an increase in
interaction with residents who in the past have been less inclined
to be involved with activities”

Residents and staff at Riverdale Court have worked hard to raise the funds to pay for the Rempod and also have had a number of donations to pay for the carriage.

Commenting, James said: “I was delighted to open this new Rail Carriage
Rempod at Riverdale Court Care Home which adds to the already warm,
welcoming and caring environment at the home. The installation will make a great addition to Riverdale Court and will play an important role in creating a stimulating and enriching environment for residents.”

He continued; “I would like to thank the fundraisers and all of the staff at Riverdale Court who worked hard to make this installation possible and who contribute to making the home the special and happy place it is all year round.”