When the country first went into lockdown back in March 2020, it is unlikely many people expected to still be operating remotely nearly a year on. During the original height of the pandemic some non-critical tasks had to take a back seat but, as time has gone on, it has become clear that we need to adapt to the current limitations.
The Covid-19 pandemic has served to exacerbate the vulnerability of our care markets. Indeed, care providers across the country are experiencing financial vulnerability and many are struggling to remain in business.
In its recent publication, ‘Nine Statements to Help Shape Adult Social Care Reform’, ADASS set out the stepping stones for change in adult social care, which included the need for a complete review of how care markets operate.
The ongoing quality of provision should be at the heart of these reforms, promoting social value, and putting a much stronger emphasis on the contribution providers make to the lives of the people they support and their contribution to both the communities in which they operate and to wider society.
An important part of a council’s social care responsibility is to ensure quality provision for local people and assessing providers is a vital part of this process. Assessing provider quality is important for auditing and safeguarding and so it is crucial this still takes place, despite the continued restrictions and need for social-distancing.
We are finding now, more so than ever before, that councils are working in partnership with their providers to audit quality without having to undertake a site visit, thanks to the benefits of technology.
The adaptation of quality assurance solutions to allow remotely undertaken self-assessments supports this collaborative approach between councils and providers, which has been strengthened during the pandemic.
With providers empowered to assess themselves and review their own processes according to the framework set by council teams, the onus is on them, giving a more holistic view of quality. In response, working more closely with their care providers to help them understand the evidence against their ratings has been insightful for many council teams.
Speaking to our customers, the ability to self-assess has been particularly beneficial for smaller providers who perhaps do not have the benefit of an internal audit team, giving them the opportunity to view their processes in a different way. Should a provider rate themselves overly harshly, or indeed, too leniently, this can be discussed and amended as necessary, giving providers a clear understanding of the quality standards expected of them. According to providers, the way in which the assessment framework breaks things down for the purpose of self-assessment gives them a different perspective on how they measure themselves.
Feedback we’ve received so far has been that this new approach has been effective in continuing councils’ dialogue with providers, evidencing the quality of care being delivered and identifying where support may be necessary. When restrictions are lifted and commissioners are once again able to make site visits, this self-assessment process will be a useful baseline for discussions and in highlighting areas to focus on.
In line with the ADASS nine statements, assessing quality remotely will encourage the partnership-led relationship between councils and providers ensuring the sustainability of future care markets. Having access to up-to-date insights can support a much more risk based and intelligence led approach. When a Council has large numbers of regulated providers, and resources are shrinking, intelligence is vital for shaping working practices and priorities.
Technology, data and analytics have already proved they have a huge role to play in shaping social care as it continues to adapt to the unforeseen challenges thrown up over the past year. Despite additional pressures, quality of care provision is as important as ever and as we move forward, the processes and technological innovations being implemented now, will surely help to strengthen the sector for what comes next.
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Ben Chance, Head of PAMMS at HAS Technology Group
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