Tell us about your background and experience
I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a nurse. I didn’t know I’d end up going from nursing to health information technology, and what a journey it has been!
I started my career in the 1970s. Matron oversaw the hospital, we didn’t have managers or chief executives, and the wards were Nightingale style with around 30 patients. I quickly progressed to become the youngest ward sister in the country. I relished the challenge and one thing I quickly discovered as a nurse was that I thrive in a fast-paced and demanding environment. Because of that, I constantly explored new opportunities, and worked in Accident and Emergency, Coronary Care and Acute wards.
A few years later, I was ready to move on and took a job as the Matron of a local nursing home. It was different moving out of the NHS into the private sector, but I quickly found my feet and loved being the driving force, ensuring high quality care.
In the late 1990s, I entered into a partnership and became the co-owner of the home. I envisaged the growth and development of the company, assessed the competition, wrote a business plan and trading projections, right through to procuring a site on which to build our second nursing home. This was a huge challenge and kept me well and truly occupied, liaising with the architect and builders, monitoring the progress of the project, procurement of all the equipment, employment and training of staff and arranging the provision of goods and services.
After the new home was up and running, I secured the position of Nursing Project Manager in a large market-leading luxury care home company. My role was to lead the change for all the homes to become care homes with nursing, which I successfully achieved within a year. A great deal of my time was occupied with regulation and compliance issues – I developed such an interest in this that I undertook training to be an inspector, in what is now known as the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
In your role at Advanced, how do you bring your experience as a nurse and CQC inspector to the development of our software solutions?
When I happened to see the advert for Clinical Manager at Advanced, I was initially unsure about taking the leap, as technology was not something I had ever focused on. It was a very steep learning curve, but seven years later I can honestly say I love my job. My nursing background has allowed me to continue working regularly as a nurse in community settings with customers who are using our software, so I get to see it in action.
As part of the Advanced team of clinicians, I contribute to and influence the development of our products from design through to deployment. I am responsible for the clinical safety of all our care products, assessing all clinical risks raised and working with the development teams through to resolution. I liaise very closely with our customers and spend a lot of my time with clinicians using our software. I have the best of both worlds – I am still a practicing nurse but enjoy my ever-evolving role at Advanced.
What are the key challenges affecting social care today?
Top of the list of challenges facing care providers is how to maintain a consistently high level of care with less money. Consistent, year-on-year cuts in funding have resulted in most care organisations struggling to manage and having some level of debt. The Living Wage, alongside measures introduced in The Care Bill 2014, has further diminished profitability. Social care providers face increased scrutiny, and they are expected to meet CQC standards with less money, so the future looks bleak for many.
Whilst residential care has seen significant budget reductions, 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. Rising local populations, driven by ageing demographics, means providers have to make the money go further.
It is clear that the way in which we pay for social care must change. Funding must be comprehensive, sustainable and designed for the long term. Currently, almost 50% of social care in the UK is self-funded - a cost that is too often not planned for and only thought about late in life. Short-term cash injections are not the answer.
There is no single solution to the challenges facing the sector, but technology-enabled care does, without doubt, help save time and money.
How can social care providers best prepare for a CQC inspection?
Keep calm, it’s only a CQC inspection! CQC inspectors are simply carrying out their duty to ensure the care provider is able to deliver a safe environment for its service users. I am often asked to help providers with evidencing they are compliant.
An inspection is a care provider’s opportunity to shine, to showcase their good work and the improvements they have made. There is much work to be done ahead of an inspection, but if records, staff training, statistics, policies and procedures are kept up-to-date in all areas, and the provider can evidence that they are meeting the standards, they are half way to achieving a favourable rating.
The provider needs to ensure all staff, patients and relatives are aware of the impending inspection, staff are prepared and briefed, and most importantly should think through the implications of their report and their CQC rating being publicly available. A provider cannot operate without being compliant. But more importantly, a home that is rated ‘Outstanding’ will undoubtedly be the home of choice, maintain full occupancy and ensure that the residents under their care are receiving the best possible experience.
What does the future hold for technology in social care?
While technology becomes increasingly important to us in our personal and social lives, much of the work that care staff carry out is done by hand, on paper. Many are attracted to a career in social care because of the human interaction and the feeling of making a difference, but the reality for most care workers currently is a shift spent form-filling.
We developed Caresys Mobile to prevent the historical ‘queuing’ of care workers and nurses behind nurses’ stations, waiting to write up notes. Instead they can now immediately update their mobile device with latest patient information. This saves time and means staff are better able to evidence when and how care has been provided.
The Care Act 2014 mandates personalised care, personal budgets, involvement and collaboration. It is about evidencing outcomes, and software solutions are essential to tracking this. While the CQC does not approve any specific software solution, it recognises providers who are investing in technology – and it has referenced our solutions positively in inspection reports, which sets us at the forefront of an exciting era of change for the social care industry.