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Digital working in adult social care: What Good Looks Like - A summary analysis

This blog provides a summary and analysis to help busy leaders in the sector, and offers feedback for policy makers.

IT Services

Adult social care
Paul Fleming

Paul Fleming

Account Chief Technologist, Softcat

This week the Department of Health and Social Care published guidance on digital best practices in Adult Social Care, aimed at local authorities and care providers. Although the guidance is aimed at those who deal in digital transformation, there are implications across the C suite that should be well understood. This blog provides a summary and analysis to help busy leaders in the sector, and offers feedback for policy makers.

The new guidance takes the same approach as recent NHS digital guidance, using the three overarching pillars of Transform, Digitise and Connect. Underneath these pillars sit seven areas of success measures covering:

  • Well Led.
  • Smart Foundations.
  • Safe Practice.
  • Support People.
  • Empower Citizens.
  • Improve Care.Healthy Populations.

These are perfectly sensible themes, helpfully packaged to enable consistent conversation across the organisation and wider partners.

It's all about data

The most prominent theme straddling all seven areas is data. When we talk about data, we’re really talking insights and intelligence. Local authorities should have a central data platform that can also integrate with Integrated Care Systems. Integrating data across Adults & Children’s Care, Housing and Public Health is encouraged, as is promoting data driven practices across the Community, Voluntary and Faith Sector. Data should be used in monitoring quality, driving improvements, targeting support, and informing commissioning. Data should also be used and understood at the highest level to inform strategy and planning. There is also a clear message for local authorities to invest in analysis capabilities.

Digital skills

Digital skills feature prominently too. It’s key that there are developed digital skills across leadership level and digital leaders also need equipping with the necessary background knowledge in Social Care. A welcome recommendation is that Local Authorities should have a dedicated Social Care Information Officer, similar to NHS Chief Clinical/Nursing Information Officers. As with most of the recommendations this needs funding to free up and prioritise scarce Social Care resources. Above all, organisations are reminded to foster a learning culture around digital.

IT Security and Information Governance

IT Security and Information Governance is well covered. Mostly this is a reminder of the regulatory requirements for information and technologies and is common ground with the National Data Security Protection Toolkit. Data privacy awareness and conforming with the national data opt-out scheme runs through the areas of success. Good practice in this area of course starts at the top and leadership must understand and own the risks to then provide assurance.

Core infrastructure and connectivity

Core infrastructure and connectivity is rightly given proper airtime. Secure cloud storage and email is recommended, as well as fit-for-purpose network foundations with fast connection speeds. We’re reminded of the analogue to digital telephone switchover too. Digital care records systems should be commonplace, and technology that helps free up front-line time to increase human interaction with service users should be introduced. 

Collaboration

There is a focus on collaboration, particularly around Integrated Care Systems. There are also reminders not to reinvent the wheel, to collaborate with peers, professional networks (ADASS, LGA), system partners and academia. Integrated Care Records should be used so that front-line professionals can see the holistic view of a person’s care. A key point is that the NHS number should be used in systems as a unique identifier.

What else is covered?

Digital inclusion, co-design/production and empowering end users all get a mention, but these transformative areas would benefit from more depth. The guidance talks about promoting tools for self-care, independent living and designing digital strategy, services and solutions with service users and front-line staff. It would be nice to see more spotlight on digital and service design practices, especially given some of the innovative, agile practices happening across the sector.

What’s missing?

  • More information on how this will be funded, in a Social Care sector that faces significant financial pressures. Softcat can work with Local Authorities to achieve the best deals with vendors, and we can also help organisations to better understand IT costs, to tackle inefficiencies.
  • More joined up digital work between government departments would also benefit. For instance linking up with the brilliant work of the DLUHC and funding rounds.  Softcat Advisory Services have specialist knowledge and experience working in Local Government and can help simplify some of the complex challenges faced locally, working with you in partnership. 

National guidance is almost always welcomed in local organisations, offering direction that helps to inform local strategies, operational plans, and investment approaches. National policy makers face a difficult task; make it too high level and be accused of providing a lack of detail or make it detailed and be accused of inaccessible mandates without teeth. The ‘What Good Looks Like’ guidance seems to strike a welcome balance that is accessible and can be iterated upon.

At Softcat, we offer a range of services and solutions, specifically designed for our public sector customers, to address the unique challenges and opportunities these organisations face. We operate across education, local and central government, health and social care and defence amongst other verticals. Our dedicated Public Sector department, which includes our newly formed ICG function, brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the customers we support.

Find out more on our website or contact our Sales team to discuss any particular needs your organisation has.