PA Consulting’s government and public sector expert, Steve Carefull, discusses the trial of cobots in care homes and how this could help support staffing challenges in social care.
The article reports that Hampshire County Council have discovered that the use of collaborative robots, which help care workers to lift and hold patients, can halve the number of staff needed for some jobs and reduce injuries and absence.
The cobots are powered robotic exo-skeletons that use straps and motors around the carer’s waist, lower back and legs to support and enhance their movements as they lift, hold and move people. Hampshire teamed up with PA Consulting to test these waist belts.
Commenting on this, Steve says that the cobots were designed to be used in conjunction with humans and should not lead to a loss of jobs: “We were [also] concerned [patients] might be concerned but they were curious and asking workers ‘Are you going to take off in that?’ and the care workers enjoyed that dialogue. The service users were happy that the care workers had something to make their jobs easier.”
Steve adds that “a clear business case” was emerging for cobots, which cost could make social care services more sustainable: “In five, ten, and 20 years the care sector will be supporting more people with comorbidities, who are living longer and relying on a workforce that will be less and less able to cope with the demand. I don’t think we have many alternatives other than to enhance the workforce in a way that simultaneously has the potential to attract more people into it. I have been working in adult social care for more than a decade and the availability of cobots feels like a moment when something genuinely transformational could happen.”