More than 1,000 days after the government promised to publish a Social Care Green Paper, Dr Ben Maruthappu, co-founder and CEO of tech-enabled domicilary care provider Cera Care, gives his views on what should be at the centre of a future social care system.
December 3rd marked the 1000th day since the government pledged a Green Paper to address the challenging social care crisis in the UK. Yet 1000 days later, it still remains unclear when the Green Paper will arrive and what it will include.
Whilst we’ve been waiting, parts of the situation have deteriorated. Age UK’s recent report paints a vivid picture; currently 1.5 million people aged 65 and over have an unmet need for care and there are more than 100,000 vacancies in the care workforce. In short, the need for care is growing yet our resources to deliver it remain thin.
The causes for delay have been numerous. Multiple general elections and subsequent changes in leadership have meant reservations about what polices to adopt for social care. Brexit too has caused a great deal of ambiguity and distraction from concrete plans for the future of social care in the UK.
Encouragingly though, social care has become a key issue in the upcoming general election. Unfortunately, previous shortcomings look set to be repeated. Promises of additional funding, welcome as they are, are not long-term sustainable solutions. We need systemic change for a real solution.
The newly-appointed government should take inspiration from successful care systems overseas, such as Japan’s Long Term Care Insurance where all people over the age of 40 pay into a national fund through taxation in order to support social care for the ageing population. One thing is certain and it is that at the centre of our future social care system must be one thing; technology.
Social care today, with its reliance on paper records and other archaic administrative practices, is operating as if it were in the 1950s. In terms of its provision of services, social care currently lags 20 years behind health care – technology can help close that gap. This will connect social care and the NHS so that they are part of the same ecosystem, instead of being potentially disjointed.
Today, technology can be used to provide a digital-first experience to users and carers – improving the affordability, accessibility and scalability of care, while also allowing for the potential of data to be harnessed to help solve the challenges social care faces.
At Cera, we have used data collected by analysing 68,000 digital care records to develop our AI-based Concern Predictor which can help manage an individual’s health in a way that was not previously possible – through predicting and hopefully preventing issues before they occur. So far, the Concern Predictor has correctly identified 715 cases of increased concern by spotting subtle patterns. If this use of technology was implemented sector-wide, it would alleviate some of the strain on the NHS and particularly it’s A&E units.
The government still has much to do to reform social care, which hopefully will be kick-started by the Green Paper that was originally promised over 1000 days ago. If it does arrive, there must be cross-party consensus so that future changes in government cannot bring the undoing of positive, effective reform. Crucially, at its core should be a focus on making technology a fundamental part of the sector’s infrastructure. This will help pull social care out of the past and provide our in-need ageing population with the care it deserves.