Care in the UK is facing a perfect storm as the coronavirus pandemic piles more and more pressure on an industry that was already under enormous pressure even since before the virus spread out across the world.
We will make the argument here that technological innovation holds out the hope of relief to many of the issues facing the sector. Before we get to that point, let’s look at some of those challenges being faced.
Across all sectors – domiciliary, care homes, and the third sector, pressures have been mounting for years from an industry crying out for funding and for the workforce it needs to support a burgeoning number of people.
In care homes, mainly run by the private sector but in receipt of funds from the state, the covid crisis has caused a double if not a triple whammy.
Since the crisis began, families have been reluctant to send their loved ones into homes as they see reports of the number of deaths from the disease.
This has impacted the sector to the tune of billions of pounds, at a time when the sector has faced increased costs from having to purchase more personal protective equipment (PPE), and pressures on staff.
If care homes go bust, as the Guardian report puts it, “a greater strain would fall on the NHS in any future rise in infection and the capacity for emptying hospital wards to make way for Covid cases would be reduced.”
In 2017, the care home industry warned that it was becoming unsustainable, with the FT reporting that the average care home earns just £11,000 in pre-tax profits.
Similar pressures have faced the domiciliary care sector, where staff numbers have been affected by covid and the need to be even more cautious with the use of PPE.
And the voluntary sector, where families and spouses are already under pressure, there has been little scope for respite.
Former UK health secretary Matt Hancock announced to Parliament in February 2021 that he wanted reforms to cut bureaucracy and increase innovation. And he flagged up a review of social care, too.
Technology companies like Briteyellow can help the care sector with innovation, and we certainly welcome any opportunity to be involved in finding solutions to some of the issues facing the care industry.
While tech cannot by itself cannot cure all the ills of the care industry: low pay, a lack of funding, high staff turnover, and a postcode lottery in care, it can certainly help ease the pressures.
For example, Briteyellow’s BriteCare solution offers a smart remote care package that can save time and money for hard-pressed operators.
How can smart remote care help the under-pressure care industry?
Imagine a wearable piece of technology, the same size as a smart watch, which a person wears on their wrist. It can provide all sorts of data about a person, including their location in an indoor setting, say at home, or in a care home or hospital.
When someone wears the technology, which is linked to a powerful software package, they provide lots of useful data to the cloud.
Over time, the amount of location data builds up into a picture of a person’s movements.
Allied to artificial intelligence, the software can work out when something unusual happens.
For example, if auntie Margaret normally gets up for breakfast at 6.30am on a Tuesday, but the technology shows that her location hasn’t changed, that triggers an alert to a carer.
The carer can then phone Margaret or call on her to see if anything is wrong.
UK tech firms are already beavering away creating solutions to issues in the care industry. After all, in the longer term, we are all likely to need care. Call it enlightened self-interest.