There’s a revolution happening throughout social care in the UK. It’s a revolution that promises to bring with it improved quality of care and outcomes for service users, more engaged and happier employees, and more efficient businesses.
Before COVID-19, the long standing trend in social care has been an ever increasing demand for support and care due, in a large part, to an aging population and a growing need for more complex care. Alongside this, funding for social care continues to be squeezed. The result has been an increase in unmet need across the board.
For a number of years, the sector accepted the need for change but this change has been slow in coming. The events of 2020 have dramatically accelerated transformation and change across the industry, with the revolution now well and truly underway.
As Jane Townson, Chief Executive, United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) says: “This year we’ve seen a renewed ambition and focus on innovation and tech to support citizens, care workers, informal carers, and care operators.”
It’s social care employees - and optimising the workforce in order to provide better outcomes for patients - that are the key drivers behind this change.
In conjunction with Health Plus Care and the Residential & Home Care Show, we brought together a group of health and social care experts from Black Swan Care Group, Elysium Healthcare, Sekoia, The Care Home Show, UKHCA, and Quinyx for a panel discussion on how to optimise the workforce in the ever-changing landscape of social care.
Here’s what we learnt:
1. Embracing new technology is critical
“Close to two years ago it became clear to us that we needed a 21st century solution to manage our workforce,” says Leah Moss, Commercial Projects Director at Elysium Healthcare. “Most of our employees were using on site rotas which they couldn’t access when they left the site, our rotas were created on a spreadsheet, and we had a huge paper trail - it was all incredibly inefficient.
“We wanted to meet the NHS long term plan of having an eRostering system, improve the continuity of care across our 74 sites, be able to see our staffing levels in real-time at any point of the day or night, improve our safeguarding so our staff don’t work excessive hours, improve our data quality so we can begin to forecast demand more effectively and, of course, all of this drives financial efficiency.”
“We wanted to find a solution that was agile, flexible and, first and foremost, easy to use. Nine months ago we began using Quinyx and our staff now have a workforce management tool in their pockets which they love.”
By embracing change and technology, Elysium Healthcare has been able to significantly reduce their admin, ensure they always have the right people in the right place and join up many of their different systems so they now have ‘one version of the truth’ as Leah Moss describes it.
She adds: “Quinyx was invaluable during COVID-19. It helped us understand our workforce’s requirements and our residents’ needs. It meant we could easily manage our staffing levels and our managers were doing the important job of looking after our residents, not looking after a spreadsheet.”
Morten Mathiesen, Chief Marketing Officer at Sekoia, adds: “Research this year shows that 59% of social care companies have accelerated their planned digitisation projects.
“We’ve also seen a huge use by social care staff of video communication tools, messaging apps and new ways to engage friends and families of residents during lockdown. Their driving the need for organisations to use apps that are more consumer-like and simple to use.
“There’s been new ways of collaborating and the advent of needs-based rostering - by combining data from different systems - that mirrors the needs of the residents. Essentially, you’re going from very electronic or computerised systems that only a few people in the organisation could use, to now having tech in the pockets of the workforce, which is something that's really driving how you can focus on outcomes and all of the things you really want to achieve in your strategy as a provider.”
2. Instant communication is a game-changer
Throughout the pandemic, the need for clear, concise and immediate communication quickly became evident - especially as the rules and regulations from the UK Government constantly evolved.
Brett Burton, Company Director at Black Swan Care Group says: “Communication has been the most important thing this year, but it’s also been frustrating, confusing and, at times, overwhelming.
“When we sat down at the beginning of the pandemic we knew our communication had to be timely, relevant, adaptable, scalable, and accessible. We have a multi-generational, multi-ethnic staff group who use multiple platforms to get their information. They use multiple devices and they have multiple learning styles as well. Finding a communication that suits the entire staff group is a huge logistical challenge.
“We understood the need to immediately give clear and concise direction, in a time of extreme stress, to our staff, residents, their families and our key stakeholders.
“Getting the message to the people who needed it, at a time they needed it, was imperative. I believe new modern methods of communicating and specialist software will soon become standard in most social care organisations but we also ignore, at our peril, the fundamental human need for human contact.”
3. Employees need control and choice
This change all begins with the employees. When Elysium Healthcare began their search for a workforce management tool, they started with their employees.
“One of the most important things we did at the start was to have the conversation with our staff to ensure whatever workforce management system we chose met their needs,” says Leah Moss. “It was very much driven from the bottom up not the top down.”
By engaging your employees in any change management process from the very start, you’ll ensure they're invested in it and can see how it will benefit them. One of the biggest benefits a modern workforce management solution gives employees is the ability to have control and choice over how they work.
Research we carried out earlier this year found more than 30% of social care workers would leave their job because of inflexible rotas. However, prioritising employee wellbeing and happiness means employee turnover will be reduced and it becomes easier to attract employees.
Leah Moss adds: “Our decision to invest in a workforce management tool was really about putting this system into our staff’s pockets and giving them the power to manage an incredibly stressful - especially during the past nine months - work life balance.”
The webinar panel all agreed that embracing technology and new ways of working will:
- Make social care providers more cost efficient
- Allow organisations to plan proactively instead of reactively
- Eliminate siloed ways of working
- Ensure compliance
- Improve communication
- Significantly reduce time and labour intensive admin
The result of all of this, is an improvement in the quality of care, and better outcomes for patients and residents.