The Social Care white paper, People at the Heart of Care sets out the government’s 10 year vision for the transformation of support and care in England. It introduces new funding for workforce, housing and innovation to enhance choice, control and independent living. This will be underpinned by a programme of digital transformation based on digital technology. It announces investment of a minimum of £150 million over 3 years to rapidly drive digitalisation across the sector and outlines key ambitions:
- To launch a new scheme to test care technologies and scale those where there is proven benefit to people.
- Ensure that at least 80% of care providers, supported by ICSs, put a digitalised social care record in place that can connect to a shared care record.
- Support care homes that lack basic infrastructure to improve their broadband connections by delivering fibre upgrades and work with government and industry to ensure homecare providers have the infrastructure they need to work digitally.
- Deliver a digital learning offer to support a step-change in digital skills and confidence.
The Integration White Paper Joined up Care: People, Places and Populations provides further details. It confirms that ICSs are required to have finalised their digital investment plans by June 2022 and sets the following ambitious timescales:
- Each ICS must have a functional and single health and adult social care record for each citizen by 2024, with work underway to enable full access for the person, their approved caregivers and care team to view and contribute to.
- To achieve 80% adoption of a digital social care record that connects to a shared care record, among CQC-registered social care providers by March 2024. Government will ensure that within six months of providers having an operational digital social care record in place, they are able to connect to their local Shared Care Record, enabling staff to appropriately access and contribute to the record.
- A suite of standards for adult social care to enable providers across the NHS and adult social care sector to share information, starting with the consolidation of existing terminology standards by December 2022. A roadmap for this will be published in April 2022.
- Data to support an understanding of population health, including unmet need and disparities, should be fully shared across NHS and local authority organisations, to allow ‘place boards’ or equivalents, and ICSs to plan, commission and deliver shared outcomes, including public health and prevention services.
- Each ICS will implement a population health platform with care coordination functionality that uses joined up data to support planning, proactive population health management and precision public health by 2025.
- By March 2024, over 20% of care homes will have acoustic monitoring solutions or equivalent care tech in place.
- An ‘ICS first’ approach. This means encouraging organisations within an ICS to use the same digital systems, making it easier for them to interact and share information and providing care teams working across the same individual’s pathway with accurate and timely data.
The NHS Transformation Directorate plans to work with partners across the sector as well as with people with experience of health and care services to produce a social care technology blueprint that will help people to understand what good looks like for technology in social care.
Unified Tech Fund (UTF)
In August 2021, NHSX (now the NHS Transformation Directorate) acknowledged that historical attempts to fund digitalisation of health and care systems had resulted in a patchwork of funding strategies and opportunities. To help to address this they brought together several national technology funds. These amount to £938 million available to NHS organisations throughout 2021/22. A summary of the funds and what they are intended to achieve was published. These support the aspirations outlined in the white papers: People at the Heart of Care and Joining up Care. Applications for funding were invited from end of August 2021 and no further applications will be received after March 2022. Each funding pot has a different timescale for the closing of applications. Detail is also provided of digital funds which sit outside the UTF. There was a requirement for applicants to clearly demonstrate that they had worked across their ICS organisations to ensure that investment proposals aligned to their local system needs.
One of the funds provided £8.2 million to support digitising social care. The funding is intended to pilot social care technology with ICSs, to include:
- Infrastructure to improve access to high speed connectivity and devises for care providers
- Fall prevention technologies that can reduce the frequency and severity of hospital admissions
- Digital social care records (DSCR) to ensure data is captured at the point of care and can be shared between care settings.
Currently 13 ICSs have received funding of up to £679,500 each. The programme aims to significantly increase digitalisation within social care by supporting the adoption of care technologies that will enhance the quality, safety and efficiency of social care. The aim is for the pilots to build an evidence base for their impact, develop implementation guidance and assure supplier solutions.
Digital Social Care are supporting the 9 early pilot projects which were each provided with up to £50,000 to introduce digital social care records and focus on digital readiness: Further details of the fund and details of each pilot project are available on the NHS transformation directorate website.
The Digitising Social Care Records Programme at NHSX has launched an Assured Supplier List to support adult social care providers in England to buy from an assured list of digital social care record solutions.
Future Funding Opportunities
Future funding opportunities are likely to come via ICSs, with each NHS region having a named person at NHS Transformation Directorate. We will update our website with more information when we have it.
The NCF Digital Transformation Leads understand that work on the suite of standards for adult social care, starting with the consolidation of existing terminology standards might commence soon. This project is due to deliver by December 2022 and a roadmap for this is expected in April 2022. The team also understand that work on a minimum data set is due at the end of March 2022.