Technology and Care in 2022

We asked Esme Foxworthy-Bowers, our Facilitator in Scotland, to reflect on 2022. Esme’s Facilitator is in Glasgow, and aims to increase the use of technology in care at home services. She is reviewing and synthesising evidence to support the implementation of a new model developed by Scottish Care.

IMPACT Facilitators work within a local organisation, leading an evidence-informed change project. Through close collaboration, facilitators review the evidence, lead local change and evaluate the effectiveness of the changes that take place. In order to encourage replication across the social care sector, we will share our successful findings and outcomes with others.

What have been your highlights of 2022?

I’ve been working with Baillieston Community Care in Glasgow on technology implementation, with their care at home services. This is working alongside the Scottish Care project of ‘Care Technologists’. The role supports people to access care and helps them use technology as part of their everyday activities. To understand what has been working well or needs improvement, I’ve spoken to some of the people that the Baillieston Care Technologist has been working with. This has been one of my highlights. It has been great to be on the ground as staff and people who use the care-at-home service have learned more about technology.

Working with the Care Technologists has been another highlight for me. The team is so enthusiastic and has been doing fantastic information sharing with me! The project is allowing people who use care-at-home services and staff who provide support to identify the changes they would like to see, and to express their thoughts and opinions.

The number of opportunities for learning during this project has really impressed me. Scotland is currently working to develop a National Care Service. I’ve been in meetings where I have spoken about IMPACT’s work and the Facilitator project with individuals from the National Care Service working groups. The results will help them incorporate the practice knowledge and lived experience evidence into the development of the National Care Service. It would be incredible to see the work from this project used for such a large-scale re-design of care at home.

What have been the challenges this year?

At the beginning of my role, it was difficult to find information about previous technology projects or tests of change in the care at home sector. This prevented me from getting a grasp of what was already being done. I also needed to find out more about technology implementation. Initially, this was harder than I anticipated to navigate. A big part of my job is around evidence-based information ‘brokering’, and there isn’t a lot of information available or published at present.

How have your aspirations for the project/IMPACT changed?

I think now that the groundwork with Baillieston Community Care has been laid, my aspirations have shifted more toward plans for the Facilitator project itself. Personally, I love the information distribution aspect of this job. I want Baillieston Community Care to feel like they have more options, more knowledge, and are more enabled to explore technology in their service by the end of the pilot.

What have you learned so far?

So far, the gap between practice and research has been particularly emphasised. There is not a lot of large-scale research on technology in care at home, and services are often very stretched due to staff shortages and time.

A learning point for me was really emphasised by the equality, diversity and inclusion training that IMPACT staff attended in November 2022. This really highlighted the need for everyone in the system not to be viewed as cogs in a machine. I realised that everyone in a service has their own worries, lives, hopes and happiness to think about every day. I think this notion is consistent with the way that carers and people accessing care view technology. There is not one size that fits all and it is very individual. There is also a real worry that staff will be replaced by technology. Often this worry overshadows the potential for technology to complement care and support.

What are your hopes for next year?

I will be engaging more staff at Baillieston about IMPACT and the Facilitator project. I will also find out what kinds of technology would make a real difference. Through this, I hope I can bring an understanding of the background evidence for using technology in care at home in a way that acknowledges but takes steps to remove the fear that is sometimes present.

I am hopeful that this project can allow staff to work in ways that suit the needs of their role. They will begin to work with technology that’s suited to both them and the people accessing care. I hope the Facilitator project allows multiple organisations to understand their staff and the people that access care. Ultimately, enabling them to design ways of working that suit everyone.

What does success look like?

Success for me is ensuring that Baillieston’s hopes for this project are fulfilled. Baillieston Community Care is hoping to increase staff confidence with technology. They also want to develop case studies that can demonstrate what helps and hinders the use of technology in care at home services. This might identify the need for training in digital skills for example. By working with the Care Technologists this may encourage questions to them, which might alleviate some concerns or difficulties people face which they’re unsure about how to solve.

Conversely, it’s also becoming clear that part of success in a technological context is recognising hesitancy when using technology. Whilst there are benefits to assistive technology and information provision, digital access is about maintaining the right of people to say no to technology. Success in this context means that people benefit from technology if they choose it, and staff feels able to implement and use technology in care at home.

I think importantly, this success comes from the Facilitator contributing to evidence-based practice in this way. I am effectively distributing and encouraging the use of evidence-based practice.

What’s unique about your ‘technology in care’ project?

It’s become clear from my work so far that it is easy to assume that many social care organisations already have technology and technological skills. However, this is not necessarily the case. My hope is that confidence will increase in the future. To do this, I think we need to understand the needs, wants and fears of technology from staff and people accessing care at home.

I feel that there is a real opportunity for the Facilitator project to support this. In the future, I hope we will be able to help people in geographically different areas using technology (especially as social care provision can look very different in remote and rural areas).

Any highlights/stories/surprises you’d like to share?

A real surprise for me has been running focus groups. There have been some productive discussions about what is working and not working in terms of technology and implementation. There have also been success stories and practical knowledge sharing.

I also feel I’ve become a better ‘knowledge broker’. It has been great to experience people coming to me to ask if can share any research relating to technology implementation. This part of the Facilitator role has slotted very well into the social care setting and it feels as if I am providing a useful and relevant role. It is also great learning for the Facilitators of the future after the pilot year!

Asset-based approaches in 2022

We asked Robin Miller, IMPACT Demonstrators Lead, and Sarah McLoughlin, our Strategic Improvement Coach, to reflect on 2022 and the Demonstrator project so far. Our Demonstrator is taking place in Northern Ireland, and is looking at ‘asset-based approaches’, and how older people can have a better life via health and social services working in new ways with them, the community, and the voluntary sector.

What have been your wins/highlights of 2022?

The potential value that can be generated through IMPACT partnering with an innovative local area to learn from their experiences and support them to build on their strengths. Mid & East Antrim has been a great place for the Demonstrator model to be piloted due to MEAAP’s established networks with older people and with policy and practice partners. Our World Café stakeholder event was an excellent reflection of this – 50 people with lived experience and/or professionals coming together to discuss, debate and design.

How have your aspirations for the project/IMPACT changed?

The overall aspirations for the project – understanding how to engage all of the relevant stakeholders in a local area with innovation, identifying what the important elements of an asset-based approach in primary and social care – remain the same. Through the gathering of lived, practice and research evidence the opportunities to support improvement have become clearer though, for example in relation to responding to the different expectations of diverse communities and demonstrating to professionals how the approach can save them time as well as benefit older people and their families.

What have you learned so far?

When planning future Demonstrators, it will be important that there is a good level of commitment from across the social and health care system, and a local organisation who is well connected and willing to lead on the process in this area.

There are relatively few people with all the knowledge and skills necessary to undertake a strategic improvement role in social care – therefore part of the role of IMPACT needs to be on workforce development and building a cadre of people with these skills.

What are your hopes for next year?

Apart from the very practical hope that our second Improvement Coach is appointed, we want to take forward the actions that are set out in the theory of change regarding increasing the spread and further strengthening the depth of this asset-based approach. We would also hope for policy makers in Northern Ireland to learn from our experience in Mid and East Antrim as they develop the integrated care system.

What’s unique about your ‘asset-based approaches’ project?

The strength of connection with older people in the local area, the high level of commitment from stakeholders, and the capacity building activities with the voluntary and community sector.

Any highlights, stories, or surprises you’d like to share?

The World Café event we ran in November, and feedback from older people and wider stakeholders is a great example of the project’s impact to date.

Find out more about the Demonstrator project.

Working with the NIHR Delivery Research Programme

A paper setting out a framework for collaboration between NIHR Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) and IMPACT was discussed at the HSDR Programme Oversight Committee in April 2022. The principles for closer working to promote and enhance social care research were welcomed by the HSDR Programme Director and committee. The Committee endorsed the approach, setting out how this informal collaboration might work and key touchpoints where there would be mutual benefit in close working to maximise HSDR outputs and reach wider social care audiences. This was seen as an exciting opportunity for the Programme.

It was agreed that information on current studies in the pipeline could be shared regularly with Jon Glasby and staff at IMPACT, perhaps on a quarterly basis. It was suggested that pilot work would be done with early engagement with teams and projects on linked studies on family group conferencing and support for people with learning disabilities/autism leaving long-stay hospitals which are likely to be of great interest to social care practitioners and service users. 

Jon Glasby is also linked into other parts of NIHR, including the School for Social Care Research, Research for Social Care programme and the NIHR Centre for Engagement and Dissemination. Developing ways of working with HSDR programme may be a useful pilot arrangement which could be the model for other parts of NIHR.

This paper was then discussed at the IMPACT Leadership Team meeting in June 2022.  With a few minor changes in wording or emphasis, IMPACT would be keen to pursue all the opportunities below as a way of supporting NIHR as it extends its social care expertise and presence, and as a way of supporting a number of IMPACT’s key objectives.

Frameworks for working with NIHR

Background

IMPACT is the UK centre funded by the ESRC and Health Foundation to implement evidence in adult social care.  Following a scoping phase with surveys and Assemblies to identify pressing topics and ways of working, the new centre will enter a steady state for five years from 2023-27. After this, the aspiration is that the centre, or key elements of its work, becomes a more permanent feature of the social care landscape (future business model tbc).

NIHR Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) Programme is a national funding programme awarding more than £20m a year for research on the quality and organisation of services in health and social care. Projects relevant to social care range from evidence synthesis on strengths-based approaches to social work to ambitious evaluations of family group conferences for vulnerable adults. 

Suggested areas for joint working and synergy

  • Anticipating research pipeline and maximising funded outputs

HSDR has a number of projects underway in the area of adult social care. This includes £7m+ investment in local adult social care research partnerships around the country, projects on self-neglect, care workforce and support for older carers. In the first instance, this could be a pilot for one or two research teams and projects to work with IMPACT, with IMPACT delivery staff working to implement findings from these studies. This would need to depend on their being an appropriate ‘fit’ between forthcoming research and IMPACT’s priorities for 2023-25 (to be submitted to IMPACT’s funders in September 2022). NIHR studies would also need to be working with a similar definition of evidence (which IMPACT defines in terms of insights from different types of research, the lived experience of people drawing on care and support and carers, and the practice knowledge of social care staff).

  • Identifying gaps/research needs

IMPACT’s broad and deep engagement will help to identify priority areas for future research. This is already evident from outputs from the survey/Assemblies which highlighted the importance of research in areas like prevention and wellbeing, asset-based approaches, carers’ health and wellbeing, and support for people who work in social care. Having chosen a series of key topics for its forthcoming work programme, IMPACT also goes through a ‘triage’ process to make sure that there is enough evidence with which to work, and checking for gaps – in either research, lived experience or practice knowledge. HSDR could work with IMPACT and constituent partners to work up briefs in priority areas, identifying important areas of research interest and important gaps in knowledge and framing calls in ways that will resonate with social care researchers and communities. 

  • Building capacity and sharing expertise

Consider opportunities to develop and strengthen capacity and community in adult social care research. Some approaches for embedded research and capacity building are being tested in the new HSDR adult social care partnership research awards, as well as particular opportunities through NIHR Academy Incubator for Social Care. There may be other opportunities – for instance, shadowing or sharing resources around review and research methods through the rapid evaluation and synthesis centres. This is a key priority for IMPACT as one of its four objectives is around building capacity in the workforce, and there may be scope to explore for IMPACT to support the local stakeholders with whom it is working on the ground to encourage stronger applications for existing NIHR capacity building schemes and helping to create a pipeline of credible candidates for these opportunities.

HSDR would also benefit from the expertise and networks of IMPACT to strengthen funding committee and reviewer base to make the right decisions with the right expertise for new projects.

Next steps

  • IMPACT and HSDR Programme staff to meet to take forward above areas for development – with quarterly meetings suggested going forwards
  • There is a particular opportunity to build in 1-2 topics from current NIHR projects into the draft work programme which IMPACT submits to funders in September 2022
  • IMPACT and HSDR to explore scope to publish a statement about this relationship/ways of working