Smart innovation offers hope for troubled home care industry
A digital platform that could save the crisis-hit home care industry millions a year is being developed by the University of Southampton in partnership with local technology company NquiringMinds and Southampton City Council.
The CareShare platform will use a website and a set of apps to make the industry more efficient through better use of unpaid carers and tailoring care contracts more closely to individual need.
Home care services – designed to help people with care requirements continue living in their own home – are worth £4.62 billion a year in the UK, but a combination of increasing demand, dwindling state funding and staff retention issues means some care companies are struggling to deliver services to the expected standards profitably.
According to the latest annual report by the United Kingdom Homecare Association, 50 per cent of providers have refused to tender for local authority care contracts because of financial pressures.
In addition, Carers UK recently estimated that the contribution of unpaid carers – such as family members, friends, neighbours and charities – was worth £132 billion a year, making them the largest provider in economic terms.
The £1.46m CareShare project, funded by Innovate UK and led by NquiringMinds, aims to address these issues by integrating the unpaid sector with the professional sector, and using a dynamic “find-a-carer” app and website to commission care in smaller units as opposed to long-term contracts.
The platform – which will be tested over the next two years – will also help cultivate closer relationships between carer and citizen, resulting in more economic efficiencies.
It will use a set of mobile apps to share data through cloud and web-based services and offer key features such as:
- the ability to share basic notes between professional and unpaid carers
- coordinating visits so that everyone does not turn up on the same day
- a rating system to help monitor care quality
- the integration of telecare sensors, backed up by state of the art analytics
Leading the project for the University, Professor AbuBakr Bahaj, Head of the Energy and Climate Change Division, said: “We jointly developed this project to address the challenges faced by the care industry by bringing together local authorities, industry and academic expertise. As well as being of major benefit to the home care industry, it has the potential to expand its approach to other challenges in society, such as mobility, employability and training.”
Nick Allott, CEO of NquiringMinds, based at University of Southampton Science Park, added: “We believe that technology has a crucial role to play in delivering more efficient care services. Sharing data between citizens and organisations, in a privacy-centric way, will be the key to fully engaging the community in this growing problem.”
Sandra Jerrim, lead commissioner for adult social care at the Southampton City Council, commented: “We are keen to explore the use of care technology as a key enabler in the delivery of health and social care, and are excited to be working with Care Share and nquiringminds to see where this innovation can help release capacity, create efficiency and provide individuals with greater choice.”