Social Care in the UK: It’s Everyone’s Job

Not everyone considers themselves a natural caregiver. Many people don’t want to think too hard about the idea of looking after an ailing loved one or a rambunctious kid. But the reality is that at some point in your adult life, you will spend a significant amount of time taking care of another person, whether it is your “real job” or not. So even if it isn’t part of your paid career, you are part of the community of social care.

This is especially true once you hit 50. In the last UK census in 2011, the ONS highlighted an interesting trend in social care that I’m sure everyone is looking forward to: when women reach 50, they are likely to spend 5.9 years of their remaining life as unpaid carers. Men at 50 are likely to spend 4.9 years of their remaining life as an unpaid carer.

A key driver behind the trend is the fact that everyone is living longer. Babies born today in the UK have a 1 in 4 chance of living to age 100. The same trend applies to those living with a disability. For example, the average life expectancy for a person with Down’s syndrome is between 50 and 60 (it was 25 in 1983), with a small number of people living into their seventies. Overall, old age in the UK accounts for some 43% of social protection expenditure.

Social Care Industry in the UK

The number of people working in adult social care is estimated at nearly 1.5 million people in the UK. It’s arguably the country’s biggest employer. The majority (90%) of the adult social care workforce are employed on permanent contracts. Approximately half of the workforce (51%) works on a full-time basis, 37% are part-time, and the remaining 12% have no fixed hours. The attrition rate is high, though. In data from the last UK Census, the turnover rate of directly employed staff working in the adult social care sector was 27.8%. This was approximately 350,000 leavers over 2011.

The Social Care Funding Crisis

As is so often said, the NHS is “the envy of the world but copied by no one.” It celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, and more is expected of the NHS than ever before. The NHS is a world leader in episodic care – helping people that are sick – and this is how NHS funding is mostly applied. But for social care, the NHS is underfunded both directly in the number of pounds allocated for these services, and in the way funding percolates down into local councils and into grants to the charity sector. There are calls for a ‘hypothecated’ (or ring-fenced) tax focused on social care to address the issue. By 2020, the estimated gap in social care funding is estimated at £2bn.

Social care is critical to the well-being of millions now, and will be to millions more as our society ages. The sector is a massive employer, and yet the pressure on smaller budgets means that the ability to deliver effective social care is in jeopardy.

How Technology Can Help the Social Care Challenge

The role of technology is seen as key to the future of healthcare. There are a few big trends in play: 1) patient data, especially in mobilising the NHS data set (or rather, monetizing it); 2) patient care focusing on self-care and robots; and, 3) productivity, the age-old doing more with less, and more cheaply at that.

Given how much the media talks about robots in the future of health, it might seem like we are all going to get our check-ups from a drone soon. The media loves a good robot story, but this is clearly not an option in the present day, not to mention it’s debatable how desirable healthcare by robot is. The personal touch is critical in social care: you can’t have a relationship with a robot, and trust between the caregiver and patient is paramount. The role of the District Nurse, for example, in delivering personalised care is more critical than ever.

In the here and now, existing technology can play a pragmatic role with our social care challenge in the UK. The goal should be facilitating personal care but also maximising productivity. Fortunately, in the age of the smartphone, this is eminently achievable.

Mobile Workforce Management in Healthcare

One of the technologies that can dramatically improve the delivery of social care is mobile workforce management like Skedulo, a software and mobile app that manages workers on the move, schedules them, and helps them complete their onsite visits.

With a mobile healthcare solution, there are several key features that are especially valuable to social care management while improving the quality of care at the same time.

Dedicated Care Plans. Care staff need to know in detail what services a patient or client requires. Having those detailed notes and task lists in the palms of the hand—not trapped under a pile of paperwork—makes delivering high quality care easier, reduces the chance of missing a step in the process, and frees up a caregiver’s time to be more focused on the person in front of them.

Always Updated Patient Data. The ability to send updated patient notes and plans to caregivers on the go with just a few clicks instead of issuing new paperwork saves time, money, and makes it easier for a team of caregivers who share patients. At the moment of service, caregivers are can see historical patient notes in context and update those records on site so they are complete for the next member of the team.

Group events. Whether this is a trip to a supported accommodation facility, or to the local swimming pool, group events are regularly part of a care plan. Medical scheduling and mobile workforce management solutions should have the ability to manage these outings.

Incident reporting. Unfortunately, incidents may occur or be first observed in the course delivering care onsite. Incident reporting in a mobile solution helps to inform all relevant members of the care team of a concerning development, directing everyone to the same patient records. The appropriate staff and specialists can then review incidents in real time, including any notes and images the caregiver has uploaded directly from the field. With this real-time sharing in the same system that regularly manages care—as opposed to making calls or sending emails—context of care is retained for that incident and for the future, all while maintaining patient privacy.

Optimism for the Future of Social Care

Despite the challenges facing our social care system in the UK, here at Skedulo we feel optimistic about Britain’s ability to solve this crisis. Innovation in technology, and the skill of professional caregivers, will help create the efficiencies needed while delivering better care every step of the way.

Learn more about Skedulo’s medical scheduling and mobile care platform, which helps you automatically match providers to patients based on patient history and location, get data on patient needs and provider performance, and manage a mix of full-time, part-time, or contracted workers.