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Cutting edge social care: five ideas to ease the sector's crisis

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LGC has asked five technological or organisational innovators for their predictions

The fall prediction carpet

One technology with potential is the ‘fall prediction’ carpet.

This can not only raise the alarm if you do fall, but through sensors built into the fibre weave, it can analyse your gait and predict if you are going to have a fall before it happens.

This kind of technology could have a significant impact on hospital admissions and save the NHS millions.

About 70,000–75,000 hip fractures occur in the UK each year, costing about £26,000 each in clinical and social care.

With very simple adaptations to the home such as handrails, accessible appliances, or smart carpets, fall incidence could reduce by 25%; the equivalent of 18,000 people or about £0.5bn each year in cost savings.

Such savings could potentially cover the installation costs of adaptions in just over four years, not even accounting for the annual savings arising from prevention of other minor fall injuries (wrist, knee and foot fracture).

Dr Helen Meese, lead author of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ report Healthy Homes Accommodating an Ageing Population



Two groups of people in our society need additional physical or cognitive help through social care: older people who are frail or living with disability and people of any age who are living with a chronic condition or disability. 

Robotic technologies are being developed to provide physical help with many of these daily living challenges, from physical mobility through to self-care tasks such bathing, dressing, toileting, and eating. 

Robots with social and companionship capabilities are being developed to support people with cognitive impairments and can be useful alongside human support networks and IT systems in providing reminders and help with everyday tasks, medication compliance, and monitoring. 

The UK company Consequential Robotics is progressing the capabilities of robot devices to provide support for social care. Its projects include an intelligent overbed table, IntelliTable, that is able to come to the user when needed, and a pet-like animal robot companion, MiRo, that is able to provide some social support alongside monitoring capabilities.

Professor Tony Prescott from the University of Sheffield (UK Robotics & Autonomous Systems Network)


Demand-led change

At a time when efficiency savings are pretty much exhausted and it is uncertain there will be increased funding for social care, there is definitely still cause for optimism.

The reason? The debate has moved on, and demand-led change is now widely understood to be the primary focus for the future of sustainable and affordable social care.

When Impower Consulting surveyed directors of adult social services back in 2011, just 8% said they were putting a heavy focus on demand-side interventions. But according to the 2018 Adass budget survey, 82% now say that managing demand (‘developing asset-based and self-help approaches so as to reduce the numbers of people receiving long-term care) is very important for their savings.

With this level of understanding, demand-led change can now fulfil its promise of greater independence, better outcomes and reduced costs. These are three good reasons to be cheerful.

Jeremy Cooper, director, Impower Consulting


Person-centred, whole systems transformation

Undoubtedly the future of health and social care is person centric, with organisations working together better to help people live happily and safely at home and where the boundaries between health and social care are less and less visible.

At Agilisys we are transforming the way organisations deliver services by involving citizens in the co-design of those services, to ensure solutions meet real needs and are designed around core citizen “guiding principles”.

Our “whole systems view” is neither social care or health centred. Instead it starts with a person perspective, recognising the importance of personal resources, family, community assets, self-support tools, the care marketplace and good quality advice and guidance in maximising personal independence, health and wellbeing. By starting with a person perspective, we can improve efficiencies across health and social care packages and can also help local authorities and health commissioners to work better together. 

Dylan Champion, health and social care practice lead, Agilisys


Boosting innovation

Although the forthcoming social care green paper will need to focus on new funding approaches it is important that it also encourages innovation and the better use of technology to reduce costs and to improve the quality of care.

There is growing evidence of the beneficial impact of technology on social care. Hampshire CC, through its Argenti partnership with PA Consulting, has already achieved £7.1m net savings in its first four years of operation by using technology enabled care services.

Hampshire is now exploring more radical and disruptive uses for technology in care, including combatting social isolation using specially adapted tablet PCs and simplified video conferencing systems. The council is also pioneering the use of Amazon Echo in mainstream social care and looking at the use of “cobots,” to see how they could be used to reduce double-handed care worker visits.

David Rees, head of local government services, PA Consulting



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