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How UK councils are using technology to support adult social care

Read the full article in Computer Weekly

David Rees, head of local government services at PA Consulting, explains how UK authorities are looking into innovations such as robotics and voice assistant technologies to support adult social care. PA’s work with Hampshire County Council is also profiled and Graham Allen, director of adult health and care at Hampshire County Council, is quoted.

The article notes that with a collective funding gap of more than £3bn for 2019/20, local authorities across the UK have been looking at assistive technologies ranging from collaborative robots to voice assistants to support delivery of adult social care services and reduce pressure on resources.

David says that while the UK’s care system awaits an overhaul, the requirements of the country’s 5.3 million people aged over 75 have to be catered for. These demands, coupled with increasingly tight budgets, are presenting a significant challenge to councils.

He adds: “Local authorities are largely dependent on central government funding and since the coalition government at the turn of the decade, that has been hugely compressed. Added to that, there is a strong demographic pull, with more of us living longer with more complex needs. There is huge pressure on the social care system, with less money going in and more demand for services, with limited ability to supply. There has to be other ways of looking at this issue – and by using technology where appropriate, we can try to lift the burden on the system.”

David continues: “We are completely appreciative of the fact that technology can’t do everything – it can’t put you to bed, wash you clean or give you a hug, but it can do other things, which then allows the most valuable resource – social workers, occupational therapists, carers – to do other things for you that are also hugely important.”

PA Consulting-led Argenti Care Technology Partnership has been working with UK local authorities to use new tools to tackle issues in social care provision. Its largest client, Hampshire County Council, currently has more than 10,000 people using technology-enabled care, and generated £8m in savings in the first five years of its care transformation strategy.

“We found that technology has been enabling lots of people to live safely, well and independently without the need for other forms of support,” said Graham Allen, director of adult health and care at Hampshire County Council. “Technology been absolutely integral to us in terms of supporting people with the outcomes that they want to achieve.”

The article explains that supported by Argenti, the council is currently investigating the use of collaborative robots (cobots) in care and is planning to start trials of equipment provided by Japanese company Cyberdyne.

“I am particularly excited about the opportunities around robotics in care and we hope to be trialling cobots in a range of settings – both for people with limited mobility and for carers who are supporting those patients,” said Graham.

Designed to operate alongside people or with human input, wearable cobot models such as the devices to be trialled in Hampshire can help people who need care in areas such as rehabilitation for walking and caregivers with tasks such as lifting patients.

Further robotic applications in care, which are also being considered by Hampshire County Council, can support tasks around social assistance, for example sensing people’s vital signs such as blood pressure and monitoring falls, with the technology integrated with emergency calls or remote monitoring systems.

The article goes on to explian that as well as its work with Hampshire Council, PA is also working with the Isle of Wight, the Local Government Association and NHS Digital on a trial assessing the need for cobots by informal carers, such as spouses or family members.

In the trial, areas of consideration include defining how the technology would work in an everyday setting, discussing how buying and hiring of devices would work in practice with equipment providers, as well as legislative and regulatory details.

Argenti. Putting digital technology at the heart of social care and saving millions

Find out more

Contact the adult social care team