4 November 2016: The national information and technology partner for the health and care system is seeking expert input from social care professionals as part of its drive to best support the sector.
NHS Digital's call follows the completion of its first phase of major research into social care IT, which has the views of sector professionals at its centre.
The study explores how social workers currently use IT in their role and what they think can be done better to support them in the future. It is being conducted by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and market research organisation GfK.
Presented at the National Children and Adult Services Conference (NCASC) in Manchester, interim findings lay bare the challenges and concerns within social care.
These include a lack of interoperability between different organisations' systems; a burden of time taken by social workers to input data, a need for more timely access to information; and the absolute requirement to user technology as an enabler rather than replacement for face-to-face engagement.
Alongside these challenges, many areas for support have been identified by the study social care professionals include:
- sharing best practice examples on digital technology and innovation
- developing and hosting communities of practice to facilitate peer support
- providing guidance on the Data Protection Act
- ensuring software and IT systems meet social workers' requirements
- developing a toolkit for social workers on digital technology, including on use of Skype, teleconferencing and audio technology
NHS Digital will further explore these opportunities as part of the second phase of research, which will report in spring 2017.
It will engage closely with the findings and with sector leaders to ensure social care professionals are at the centre of information and technology developments.
NHS Digital Chief Executive Andy Williams said: "Our focus is helping frontline professionals deliver better services. While we have many ambitions in supporting social care it is right to start with the basics, from identifying the minimum amount of information needed to effectively discharge somebody from hospital to social care; to developing simple ways to exchange information without adding to administration.
"But there is much more that we can and will do. To achieve this with maximum positive effect for social care professionals and users we need local authorities and social workers to be at the heart of an ongoing conversation, on how to best harness information and technology to support the sector."
Chief Social Worker for Adults Lyn Romeo, who helped present the interim findings at NCASC, said: "This is a welcome piece of research commissioned by NHS Digital into an area which affects the day to day practice of social workers, but which is often overlooked. With the social care system under so much pressure, it is important that information and technology free social workers up to use their skills at the front line."
Social care professionals interested in providing expert input to NHS Digital are asked to contact firstname.lastname@example.org, using the email title "social care research."