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Andy Hart, Head of Delivery and Technical Support at Tunstall Healthcare, discusses why educating health, housing and social care professionals is vital to meet the needs of our growing and ageing population. He shares insight into the benefits and appropriate use of technology if we are to improve service provision and why technology continues to be underrepresented in training.


By Andy Hart

People today are living much longer. It’s recently been reported that the UK’s population hit a record with over-65s overtaking under-15s, and by 2030 it is estimated that one in six people globally will be aged 60 years or over.

Although we’re living longer, we’re not necessarily living more healthily. Long-term health conditions are more prevalent in older people, with approximately 15 million people in the UK requiring health and social care services for chronic illnesses.

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Why technology is underrepresented

Andy Hart, Head of Technical Delivery and Support at Tunstall Healthcare (1)
Andy Hart, Head of Technical Delivery and Support at Tunstall Healthcare

The urgent need to invest in preventative services and early interventions to reduce pressures on our services is being increasingly recognised. In fact, almost two thirds (63%) of directors of adult social care recently indicated that their local authorities were taking positive investment strategies in digital and technology.

However, large-scale change involving health and care technology is complex and presents many challenges for the stakeholders involved.

Key barriers to successful digital evolution include the budget constraints and the cost of implementing new systems, organisational attitudes towards risk, and the relationships that exist between health, housing and social care services.

Most of these barriers can be mitigated through greater training and the education of professionals. Greater education will help to build partnerships, maximise the use of data, drive cultural change and bring staff on the digital journey, whilst supporting them in their roles.

Investing in education

People are the greatest asset of any organisation and, like any other asset, they need investment and maintenance. The next generation of health, housing and care leaders require support if they are to continue to develop themselves, and therefore their teams and services.

The education of professionals within these sectors is crucial in enabling a cultural shift so that staff understand the value and use of technology, and how it can support them in effective caregiving, as well as improving the quality of life of the people being cared for.

With the right education staff should reap a number of benefits, including becoming more aware of the features of telecare devices, developing confidence in assessing and referring end users to the right solutions, and understanding the positive impact of telecare on working practices.

As the Occupational Therapy programme lead at the University of Lincoln, Carol Duff is significantly involved in the education of occupational therapists. She commented: “It’s very important that we give our students the opportunity to gain practical confidence in the use of digital solutions in a safe setting that are essential to support their practice in health and social care.

Technological solutions may mean our patients are able to remain safely at home for longer and avoid or delay moving into hospital or into care. It is essential that our occupational therapists of the future can confidently and creatively explore digital solutions that may also reduce pressure on the system and release time to care.”

A digital future

With the impending changes to our telecoms network, digital is fast becoming the industry standard to ensure the safety of health and social care services, staff and end users.

New kinds of leadership will be needed to deliver change and evolve governance, while at the same time improving the working lives and motivation of employees.

Cementing a cultural shift towards technology driven, outcomes-led approaches is required to achieve this, and in turn, this needs early engagement from professionals and an understanding that technology is designed to provide support, rather than to replace.

By harnessing the benefits of training and education, we can raise awareness of the value and potential of technology across the healthcare landscape, and provide enhanced support to users, carers, professionals and providers.

For more information on educating the future generation of health, housing and social care professionals, please visit www.tunstall.co.uk/training-services.

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