New frameworks, policies and tech potentials for home care in 2024

As another new year beckons, a reflection on the home care sector reveals a year with both highs and lows. The continued work from carers and agencies across the country never goes amiss, but the recent news of thousands of people who need support at home facing an increased risk of poor care due to lack of fees has also dominated parts of this year. 

There are plenty of predictions for what 2024 will bring, but key government policies, new frameworks and technological advancements are sure to stand out and have a noticeable impact on home care.

1. DSCR policy and funding

With the government target of 80% of CQC registered providers to be using digital social care records (DSCR) by March 2024 fast approaching, the wave of technology adoption for home care businesses will increase. Incentives such as DSCR funding, which covers up to half the first year’s costs of a digital record system, has and will continue to enable many more social care providers to take the plunge into the world of sector-specific technology.

2. Spring launch of the new CQC Single Assessment Framework will have a significant impact on data insights and collaboration

The vast amount of available data will be used to gain valuable insights and predict trends which are not only specific to individual services but will show the impact of collaborative and integrated ways of working through interoperability.

Self-evaluation will be key and will work in unison with data analysis to give clear indicators for learning, development and service improvement – regardless of the regulatory organisation that they fall under.

3. Interoperability across health and social care is going to be big

The interoperability of systems will gain more momentum across the sector and will certainly be driven by large organisations such as local authorities and NHS partners. The Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS are aiming to transform health and social care through digital innovation, ensuring that the adoption of software is a reality for all service providers.

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The benefits for home care providers are tenfold due to the ability to swiftly access information across services. Interoperability will certainly address the current unacceptable lags in the flow of information that we see in many areas across the sector. The impact will be an improved experience for those accessing and using services: we’ll see tighter, seamless processes and resources used much more efficiently. This can only be positive for people working across the industry.

4. Shockwaves of the demographic time bomb and vacancy gap to be felt

It is projected we will have a greater proportion of people aged 65 years and over by mid-2028. With an ageing population, it is clear that the UK is under-resourced in terms of health and social care provision for elderly people. At the heart of this challenge is the fallout from Brexit and Covid-19 – many who worked in adult social care left the UK as a result of these events and this has led to an increase in the number of people who are no longer willing to work. It is estimated a staggering 152,000 posts across the whole of the adult social care sector are vacant. With no guarantee that social care will remain a category on the shortage-occupation visa list, the industry will need to find a solution that facilitates the retention of candidates.

Without a significantly increased pool of carers, the sector will have a greater reliance on technology to bring increased capacity gains – something that has been evidenced by many healthcare providers, including Northern Ireland’s South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.

Moreover, it is clear that there will be a drive to address the recruitment shortfall through international recruitment. Latest figures from Skills for Care show that in 2022/23 70,000 people were directly recruited into caregiving roles.

5. AI, of course

Social care is and always will be an inherently human activity. But the use of AI, like in so many other sectors, is growing, driving workflow efficiencies, overcoming resource shortages and alleviating staff pressures. With Telehealth technology, like fall-monitoring, AI is making huge strides.

The NHS AI Lab is carrying forward its mission to safely and effectively adopt and scale AI in health and care by bringing together government, health and care providers and tech companies. While challenges remain, its integration will increase further.

2024 – the year home care goes fully digital?

The government’s plans to digitise care records by 2024 are sure to lead the headlines in the early part of 2024 – will its targets be met? This deadline will be followed by a new CQC assessment framework that could deliver valuable insights across the sector and feed into the growing interoperability of systems, something that is sure to be big next year.

All of these advancements will be crucial to addressing the demographic time bomb and vacancy gap impacting resources and the standard of home care. As technology looks to increase capacity gains, AI is set to become more influential in reducing these pressures.

As always, it will be interesting to see how these predictions play out and what surprising developments will emerge. Will this be the year care becomes fully digital?

Image: Kajetan Sumila, geralt and Care Line Live

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