Waiting lists on the rise: Tackling the challenges facing health and social care

2-Aug-2022

In this article, Nick Weston (pictured below), chief commercial officer at Lilli, looks at the role of remote monitoring technology on the COVID-19 backlog and how this approach will help to empower patients in the future

The NHS has increased its use of technology in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

The NHS has increased its use of technology in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

According to recent estimates from leaders in social care, the number of adults waiting for social care in England has risen to more than 500,000 – a stark increase from the 294,000 reported by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) in 2021.

At the same time the NHS’s staffing woes continue, with figures from March 2022 revealing that there were more than 110,000 unfilled posts across health services in England.

And these issues are only going to worsen as the cost of living crisis continues to hit the sector, with overstretched, under-resourced staff even more likely to look elsewhere as the pressure becomes insurmountable.

While the UK Government’s Health and Social Care Levy, brought into force in April 2022, is a step in the right direction when it comes to lessening the strain on the sector, it goes nowhere near the £11billion a year identified by the Health Foundation that is needed until 2024 to meet this growing demand.

In addition to this, a new spring budget report from ADASS revealed that £686m of additional funding is going to be required in 2022/23 to meet the same level of need as in 2021/22.

The implementation of technology, in particular preventative monitoring solutions, can play a huge part in solving the long-standing issues facing the sector

So urgent action is clearly needed to alleviate the pressures facing the currently chronically-understaffed, under-resourced and underfunded adult social care sector.

The implementation of technology, in particular preventative monitoring solutions, can play a huge part in solving the long-standing issues facing the sector, by helping care providers to deliver care in a better and more-efficient way, allowing resources to go further without impacting the quality of care.

This data-driven approach is going to be key in delivering much-needed resource and cost efficiencies for local councils, care providers, and the NHS, while also helping to improve the quality of care received by those who need it.

How to pro-actively optimise the allocation of resource

With resources stretched further than ever before, being able to effectively allocate resources based on evidence is vital and can be made possible through the use of remote behavioural monitoring technology.

This approach combines data obtained through sensors in the home of someone receiving care with machine learning (ML) software to provide real-time insights that can help better inform the decisions that care providers make about what level of care someone needs, and when they might need it.

Aspects that can be monitored include service user movement, temperature, bathroom visits, appliance use, eating, drinking, and the opening of doors.

For example, if a service user’s movements stray from the baseline level of what is their ‘normal’ activity, this could enable care providers to use this data to make evidence-based decisions rather than relying on inaccurate and anecdotal evidence. This empowers them in their decisions to adjust care to truly suit the service user: should a decline in condition be identified, the number of care visits that could prevent a future incident such as a slip, trip, or fall can be increased. Likewise, the number of visits can be reduced if there is a clear improvement in a person’s condition.

By arming frontline staff with advanced digital solutions that leverage the technological solutions and provide an accurate data picture, they can make well-informed, evidence-based decisions about the needs of service users

This type of technology enables those delivering care to free up the time they spend on unnecessary care visits, or delivering care packages that are not best suited to the individual’s needs, and to redistribute their time to doing the job they are trained to do; providing excellent levels of care for those who really need it, when they need it.

Along with the time and cost savings for resources that are typically overstretched, use of this technology can also facilitate a shift in mindset within health and social care, from reactive to preventative approaches centred around pro-activity.

Personal alarm technology, such as pendant alarms and traditional telehealth systems, while currently widely used to enable vulnerable people to alert their family members or carers to incidents or concerns, is limited by the fact that it can only deliver value once an incident has happened.

Pro-active technology that is more tailored to a patient’s needs allows care providers to act earlier before a condition worsens, with early intervention preventing unnecessary treatment and hospital admissions. And this prevents health decline and has a knock-on effect of saving overstretched primary care and wider NHS resources.

At a time when social care waiting lists are soaring, this preventative technology could be a lifeline for the sector.

The insights provided help to streamline care assessments and discharge to access (D2A) pathways, unclogging bottlenecks in the system to ensure a smoother transition to an individual’s optimum care package.

Deploying this type of technology supports carers in making evidence-based decisions and provides peace of mind for service users and their loved ones, safe in the knowledge they are receiving the right level of care to meet their needs.

Getting ahead of a worsening situation

Ultimately, as the number of people on waiting lists grows in tandem with the number of job vacancies within the health and social care sector, technology investment is increasingly vital.

Care providers can begin to get the problem under control and bolster often-scant resources to prevent waiting lists figures rising further, averting the ever-increasing strain on a sector that is already buckling under the pressure

By arming frontline staff with advanced digital solutions that leverage the technological solutions and provide an accurate data picture, they can make well-informed, evidence-based decisions about the needs of service users. This ultimately empowers the health and social care sector to make resources go further, while also ensuring that a high quality of care continues to be delivered, resulting in better care outcomes for vulnerable people.

With the cost of living crisis showing signs of worsening this winter, taking this action now will help ease the pressure on the sector and shows real hope for transforming the sector for the better.

Care providers can then begin to get the problem under control and bolster often-scant resources to prevent waiting lists figures rising further, averting the ever-increasing strain on a sector that is already buckling under the pressure.

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