Tech Transformation is Coming were (almost) the first words of the new Secretary of State in his first formal address last week.
Most definitely, music to my ears – and words that I hope he will continue to
pursue as he gets more embedded in the brief.
From the man who said ‘I'm the greatest enthusiast of technology on the planet’ last Friday, it is surely a
positive fillip for the beleaguered social care sector that here is a leader
who not only sees the need for transformation – but has some clear ways in
which this could happen.
Now before this turns into a rather painful Dear Diary moment, the reality
checks need to start here. We currently have a very significant budget for tech
transformation within the health services (and I chose my words carefully) of
£4.2 billion – much of the work of which came under the broad heading of ‘Personalised
Health and Care 2020’, or the paperless 2020 programme. The transformation
of social care was certainly in the sights of that programme, but the
investment to date in the sector has been poor and largely directed through
local authorities – rather than directly to social care provision.
So, I suppose it was with no great surprise, I listened to the details of
his first public speech
on his brief, including the announcements about funding, with a gradual sense
of deflation as it became increasingly apparent we were not going to get a call
out in dispatches. I get the fact that it is difficult to talk about ‘the
detail’ but in this case, it really is the detail that matters. I love the
headline in last weeks’ news ‘some hospitals are still
reliant on archaic fax machines’ (not sure how much investigative
journalism went into that headline – but a quick trip to pretty much any care
home in the country would have sufficed). So whom do they think they are faxing? Social care - let’s try and get the
headline right - actually at present significant chunks of an individual persons
journey through the integrated care and health system are reliant on ‘archaic
fax machines’ and there is absolutely no point in getting rid of them in one
part of the system - if you don’t address the data transfer issues across the
So whilst I really welcome the new Secretary of State giving it full
barrels on this issue, please tell the full story so we can get all parts of
the system in line, and ensure the real panacea, the vision of technology that
enables a truly person centred experience. One where passage between services
is ‘frictionless’ (as popular parlance would have us wish for), and the full
power of ‘tech for good’ is embedded in every health and social care service
across the country.
I was reading some transcripts of his speeches as Minister in the
Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and I was particularly taken by
his comment around how the UK could become a truly tech driven nation. I hope he
is able to take this thinking forward in influencing his department thinking
about how to enable tech across the whole system, “We can’t do this alone in
Government, just as private companies can’t do it alone either.”
It would be remiss of me to mention the other very positive news that
emerged last week in relation to the new Secretary of State’s priorities on
taking office – which were – in this order – Workforce, Technology and
Prevention. Putting aside technology for one moment – the focus on the
workforce and prevention are very important in terms of defining a brief that
stretches across health and social care, critically because they can apply in
both a health and care setting.
Yes, it is true his first statements in relation to workforce talk of his
‘love’ of the health workforce, but in his first week he was out and about in a care home,
talking to staff about their work and publicly acknowledging the excellent care
he encountered. Plus the tweetathon that emerged from Fridays announcement
included the following all-encompassing statement "To health and social care staff @MattHancock says: I have a clear
message for you: I value you. I admire you. I will fight for you and I will
champion you #NHS”.
In addition, we know from previous statements the Care Minister, Caroline
Dinenage MP (soon to be appearing at the NCF Managers Conference on 12 November) is also a very vocal champion of the care workforce. We also know steps
are in place for the development of the national social care recruitment
campaign and a workforce strategy, the first for many years to take in social
care, and these will appear on the horizon through the Autumn mist.
I mentioned in recent weeks my personal passion for prevention, and again
it is excellent to see this embodied in his priority list – and of course
positive to be using the language of the Care Act 2014. This is, as I
understand it, is most definitely upstream prevention that he is interested in,
and again the opportunity to recognise social cares very explicit contribution
to supporting independent living and preventing access to more acute services -
from both residential and home care services – is evident.
So, potentially reasons to be cheerful, and give a little whistle as you
stock pile your cans for the future...