Over the next few weeks, this timely weekly blog will bring into focus the digital and tech development developments being implemented in this time of crisis. For digital development at Care England and for Digital Social Care (www.digitalsocialcare) the past few weeks have been a steep learning curve, and I will delve into how digital has changed the nature of how we, in social care, support people to achieve quality in their lives. The COVID 19 crisis has been a call to action for everyone involved in health and social care, and its onset has awakened the creative nature of many people and organisations.
The theme of this first blog is connectivity and future blogs will cover such subjects as remote monitoring, care planning, security and the use of data. I would be delighted to hear from you, the readers, of any topics that you feel should be addressed.
Social care, like the rest of society, has had to adapt to social distancing and the lack of face-to-face contact. Care homes across the country have equipped their homes with communication tools to keep people in touch. I know of two Care England members (Jewish Care and Anchor Hanover) which have mobilised support staff directly into care settings (with the appropriate precautions in place) to act as connectivity overseers, working with residents and families to ensure that Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom, MS teams, Google hangouts and other communication tools have become the daily norm for family and friends to keep in touch.
Care England is working on a pilot project with the Alzheimer’s Society to get more assistive tech into homes and pilots are about to start with one of the major suppliers of digital tech to install specially adapted communication tools in Care England members’ homes …. more in future blogs.
One Care England member, Barchester Healthcare, has continued to provide comfort to people living with dementia through music therapy, despite lockdown. Its “Together in Sound scheme”, run by the Saffron Hall Trust and the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), has been streaming its sessions on line with members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Future First scheme making music from their own homes. The coordinator of the project said that the sessions “via online video conferencing software worked better than expected”. This is only one of many such projects around the country which have adapted and made the music even more accessible at a time of crisis.
Digital tools are being used for social interaction and for professional purposes too. Many care homes are finding that one service in particular, speech therapy, can be conducted very effectively via video link. Video consultation with GPs has also grown exponentially. The excellent NHS Blog (https://healthtech.blog.gov.uk/2020/03/26/rollout-of-video-consultation-across-general-practice/) has highlighted the issues, and NHS Digital has issued guidance on approved tools (https://digital.nhs.uk/services/future-gp-it-systems-and-services/approved-econsultation-systems).
As providers you should be encouraging your GPs to invest in this digital tech, which will lay the foundation for effective communication now and in the future. Video consultation is taking off all over Europe, and the best article I have seen discusses the UK and Europe-wide phenomenon https://sifted.eu/articles/digital-doctor-demand-coronavirus/.
The steps taken in the first month of the escalation of the COVID 19 response have changed social care for ever. The challenge will be to incorporate the new tools and the new ways of working with the need for community and primary care physical and face-to-face interaction.`
Care England would encourage you to contact us to share stories of how new connectivity tools have changed how you work with the families and friends of residents and with professionals.
Care England Digital Development Executive (www.careengland.org.uk) (@CareEngDigital), part of the Digital Social Care Team (www.digitalsocialcare.co.uk) and an independent digital strategy consultant.
For assistance with anything digital call the Digital Social Care Helpline on 020 8133 3430