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A care sector under pressure

07/07/2016 minute read Ric Thompson

As we live longer and with the council budgets tight, the social care system is undoubtedly a sector under pressure. In our last blog, we introduced some of the main issues facing the care sector in the UK right now and this has been reiterated in recent press coverage. Today, we launch our new white paper: Relieving Growing Pressure in the Care Sector, which you can download here. Who and why should you read this? Providers of care provision are juggling many issues which we explore in detail in the report, whilst uncovering areas that can be relieved by the effective use of technology. As a sector in the midst of transition, technology can and has in many cases reduced the administrative burden facing care providers. It allows organisations to get a step ahead in service provision, helping them compete in this challenging environment.

Taking a closer look at some of the industry pressures, we cast a critical eye over recent incidents and look at the common challenges preventing many care organisations from thriving in these tough times.

A sector needing to do more with less…

Top of the list of challenges facing care providers is how to maintain a consistently high level of care with less and less money.

The care sector - particularly residential care - has seen significant year-on-year budget reductions but the burden of care has grown compared to this time last year. Reports on the lottery of care provision, dependent on where you live, are now commonplace and fuel further concern about the viability of the sector. Only a couple of weeks ago, the Care Quality Commission produced its latest report: “A different ending: Addressing inequalities in the end of life care.” On top of these service issues are the budgetary constraints.

Rising local populations driven by ageing demographics means local providers have to make the pot go further. Figures published this month suggest the NHS’ long-term financial strategy is fatally flawed. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) claims by 2020, the health service will face a £10 billion deficit. The reason? An inability to find £22 billion in planned efficiency savings. The possible consequences? Spiralling costs and a direct impact on the quality of care as services become more tightly ‘rationed’. This is without doubt having a knock-on effect on care provision.

This inability to find savings is true of care organisations across the spectrum and it’s not hard to see why.

Digital by Default?

On top of this are initiatives from the Government – such as Digital by Default and the Care Bill 2014. The chances are, if you’re reading this post, you’re working for a forward-looking care organisation where transformation is front of mind. Have you been able to keep up with the pace of change brought about by such legislation? For other organisations which may be further behind the curve, it’s more likely that they are not only still coming to terms with many of the policy changes of the last few years but are also finding the transition challenging and financially unmanageable.

Thirty-four government departments and 331 agency and public body websites have now been merged into one with the aim of making it easier to access local services online. This automation is great for consumers but ensuring local services integrate with central government services has been a big job for many. Universal Credit and Personal Care Budgets, for example, are administered this way which, in theory, vastly reduces postal and phone costs; but the transition is proving costly for many and not every organisation has the same level of IT expertise. Frankly, many are simply not set up to cope with the demand or the implications of managing the collection of debt – further complicated by the fragmented nature of funding.

Is your data secure and compliant?

On top of this comes the responsibility of managing data. Part of the reason for digitising and centralising many government processes was to allow central government departments to keep a tighter control over the way services are delivered, particularly after high profile failures. This makes a lot of sense but the burden of adhering to these online processes and the resulting issues around compliance has definitely impacted on care providers at all ends of the spectrum.

The Care Quality Commission’s upcoming review of data security will require all trusts to improve their data security capabilities. In a recent letter to all NHS trusts, Dame Fiona Caldicott outlined new guidelines against which every NHS organisation will be held to account; could this be rolled out to care providers? Whilst new protective measures are always welcomed, improving data security means that all staff, at all levels, within all care organisations will have to complete nationally recognised training and certification - from board director to nursing staff.

The question is, how will care providers manage the cost?

Read our white paper to see how this pressure pot is impacting care providers but on a positive note, looking at how technology is helping care organisations start to manage these challenges and how, with the right integration of processes and infrastructure, organisations can not just weather the storm but come out stronger and fitter than ever.

George Thaw, Managing Director - Health & Care, Advanced