Matt Hancock Health and Social Care Secretary

The Department of Health and Social Care is aiming to bridge the technology gap between the NHS and social care by providing local authorities with additional funding to invest in digital innovations to help people live independently for longer.

Spearheaded by Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary, the government says the additional money can be used to help drive and develop new initiatives in social care, with a particular mention to “artificial intelligence with assistive technology.”

According to the department, innovations in AI and assistive tech could include using sensors to establish normal behaviour for individuals, for example, sleep patterns, use of kettles and walking routes, and alerting carers where there are variances.

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In addition, the government hopes the funding will help improve sharing of information across the NHS and social care, potentially creating shared care records which combine both medical and social care information that both NHS and care staff can access, as well as better integration of IT systems between care homes and hospitals.

“It’s no good in the 21st century having 20th-century technology at work,” commented Hancock.

“This investment is committed to driving forward the most basic frontline technology upgrades, so treatment can be delivered more effectively and we can keep pace with the growing demand on the NHS.”

Alongside the additional funding for local authorities, the government is establishing a new ‘digital aspirant’ programme to improve the digital capability of NHS trusts, promising funding over several years to assist with digital transformation projects.

The Health and Social Care Secretary also plans to design a model of what excellence looks like, so that all provider across the health and social care spectrum – from mental health trusts to care homes – understands what changes they need to implement to be outstanding on technology in the 2020s.

This will be assessed as part of the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) inspection regime, highlights the government, with trusts expected to meet minimum technology standards.

The latest commitments from the Department of Health and Social Care follows the reelection of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, in which during the election campaign he made numerous pledges to tackle what is widely being considered a crisis in social care.

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