By Dr Ben Maruthappu, co-founder and CEO of homecare start-up Cera
Two years ago, the NHS introduced a hospital chain system, similar to that which is already in place in Germany, in a bid to permit more collaborative working, and enable greater patient access to leading clinicians nationwide. This allowed highly respected institutions like Moorfields eye hospital in London and Manchester’s Christie cancer centre, to provide specialist services to patients in distant parts of the UK for the first time.
This collaborative model should prove beneficial for the NHS, if carefully planned and implemented, PWC has reported. In contrast, the social care industry remains much divided, and providers are struggling under the crippling workload that inevitably accompanies a growing elderly population. Demand is high and resources are tight, which means that care-workers are often insufficiently trained. Indeed, a recent Healthwatch survey observed how some are unable to accomplish even basic tasks for patients like boiling an egg, using a microwave or making a bed.
When companies operate in silos, the provision of care is almost impossible to improve. Therefore, in order to combat this drop in care quality, it is important that we consider a new model of care that will help to protect both patients and workers - one that promotes collaboration, and sharing of resources, to ensure that training needs are better met. This kind of ‘’care chains" model would mimic what the NHS is already trialing with its hospitals, where providers can pool resources and learn from each other's strengths, while ensuring economy of scale – exchanging for example training and technology services, or working together to deliver care across a larger geographical area. Cera is already demonstrating how this could work in practice by working with the premium later life living provider, Auriens, owners of Draycott Nursing who provide private nursing and home care and have a reputation for excellence in training.
The collaborative model could also see healthcare providers partner with businesses outside of care, to deliver a more efficient standard of care across the board. At Cera, for example, we have teamed up with Gett, a London-based courier service, to deliver vital medication to patients across the city, as quickly as possible. We are also looking into partnering with an online-supermarket to deliver on-demand grocery services - a collaboration that would help ease the workload of care workers, whilst ensuring that patient meal requirements are suitably met.
But to make this transition possible, the care industry must learn to embrace technology. Our society is increasingly dependent on digital, and elderly people stand to benefit greatly from advances being made across the health-tech sector. Cera’s business model already depends on the ability to schedule on-demand care and match patients to suitable care workers via digital means. This allows us to pay our workers 50% more than the national average, because we’ve streamlined back office logistics, which can reduce costs and enable us to invest in our staff.
I firmly believe that we should empower patients by helping them to remain in the comfort of their own homes for as long as possible, and as independently as possible. While it is already becoming clear that technology is making this easier to achieve, a care chains system would substantially improve the quality of social care that we can offer to people. Moreover, given that the Department of Health has recently placed targets on local councils to reduce hospital bed blocking, it is essential that we begin implementing these changes as soon as possible, before we enter a sector-wide crisis.