Investment in technology essential to support care sector, NCF report finds

Liz Jones, policy director, National Care Forum

Investment in digital technology is needed to help care providers improve the way services are delivered, research by the National Care Forum (NCF) has concluded.

At the beginning of the pandemic technology was used to remotely support residents and reassure staff and implement changes to practice and procedures. It also helped to maintain residents’ relationships outside of the care home with family and friends, and was essential to address feelings of isolation and low morale.

The research, by NCF and the University of Leeds, found virtual consultations worked well to meet residents’ needs. However, there was inconsistent use of this technology across areas.

The use of digital or electronic care planning systems were ‘hugely helpful’ for staff to maintain records and ‘invaluable in supporting effective and timely record keeping’, interviewees said.

The findings have been set out in LESS COVID: Learning by Experience and Supporting the Care Home Sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. Funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust, the project highlighted issues associated with underfunding, limited integration across health and social care and a lack of wider recognition and value of the contribution of the care home sector and its staff.

The research, which consisted of interviews of frontline care home and NHS staff and senior operational and quality managers in care settings, also found an ‘urgent need to support the wellbeing and mental health of the workforce’.

Liz Jones, NCF policy director, said: ‘This research is essential reading for all those involved in providing care for older people in this new world of Covid-19. It highlights the lessons learnt from the frontline of care at the height of the pandemic and offers some valuable insights and recommendations to help us respond effectively to future waves of Covid-19.

‘Many of the suggestions in this research involve actions that can be grasped by the sector; however, there are levers and actions needed that are beyond the control of the sector and need support and action from government. These include resolving the ongoing testing and PPE supply uncertainties; working in genuine partnership with the sector and putting the individual needs of older people at the heart of policymaking.’