Social care in crisis

1 October 2021 Anthropos

With staff shortages crippling the beleaguered sector, what’s the role of technology?

The data revealed in the latest audit of adult and social care by NHS Digital makes for shocking reading.

More than 72,000 adults are likely to have died while waiting for social care in the 26 months between July 2019 and September 2021. The estimates show that a further 70,000 people may die waiting for changes to the care sector. Policy alone won’t help people needing care.

The social care sector is facing a staffing crisis, leaving people without the care they so desperately need, and adding extra concern to millions of family members. 

A perfect storm of low wages, Brexit-related workforce changes, and the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in 130,000 unfilled vacancies in the social care sector, according to data published by Skills for Care

The mandatory vaccination policy for care home workers, which comes into force from November 11, is set to further pummel the beleaguered sector. 

The government has predicted that 40,000 staff will refuse to have the vaccine and consequently lose their jobs. Additional data produced by the Institute of Health and Social Care Management found that 27.6% of care home managers had already lost between one and five staff due to their opposition to mandatory vaccination. Nearly 4% said they had already lost as many as between six and 10 care workers.

This unprecedented staffing crisis is set against a backdrop of an increasing number of older and vulnerable adults who need care. 

Almost 300,000 people (294,353) are waiting for urgent social care assessments, care, or reviews in England. This figure has risen by more than a quarter in the last three months, according to a poll by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. The charity also revealed that a chronic shortage of care workers meant more than one in 10 people assessed as needing care in their own homes were instead being offered care in residential facilities, often against their wishes.

Those currently working in care are being stretched beyond their limits due to staff shortages, impacting the care they are able to provide to existing patients. Dr Jane Townson, the chief executive of UK Home Care Association, has called the social care shortages “the worst that anyone can remember”, adding: “I think providers and care workers feel forgotten, as though they’re just dispensable.”

Can technology help?

The human touch will always be essential. But as we see elsewhere, augmenting the human touch with technology and data helps deliver improvements. It’s a way to help people remain in their homes for longer.

Technology cannot replace the work of carers and care providers. But lots of families are starting their care journey right now and are either struggling to find the right care, or want to have extra reassurance — at a time when services are stretched.

But with carers being pushed to breaking point, and families left without alternatives, remote monitoring offers the first step to care. 

Remote monitoring provides reassurance to families, and can also help care providers judge the level of care that is needed. 

By using remote monitoring to create a complete picture of the older person’s daily routine, it’s possible to see changes, for family members to check-in and to be better informed about a loved one’s needs, and for carers to work on optimising resources for those most in need. 

When Anthropos has been used by our partners, we’ve seen how connected care can help carers spend quality time with their clients. We’ve heard from family members about the level of reassurance that connected care can deliver.

Connected care offers a relatively low-cost way to help provide care providers with information they can use to prioritise care services, and also the information that carers need when addressing the needs of their clients.

With the situation in the social care sector unlikely to change in the near future, it’s going to be down to family members, and care providers to reassess how they deliver care services. 

Technology may not be able to replace humans, but it can assist them.

Find out more about how Anthropos can help in this BBC Click show.

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