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Digital innovation in social care and social work
Digital innovation in social care and social work

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2 Digital and technology strategies in the UK

All the UK nations – Northern Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland – have put in place their own strategies and priorities for involving technology in their health and social care. This is because each UK nation has the opportunity to govern its own health and social care sector, which means that there will be different focuses and different approaches to how technology becomes part of care. For example, Northern Ireland and Scotland have had a more established relationship between ‘health’ and ‘social’ care (an integrated approach) and so they can make decisions that affect health and social care altogether. England and Wales have traditionally had more separation between ‘healthcare’ and ‘social care’ and both governments are prioritising the need to create ‘joined up’ integrated care.

All three devolved governments in the UK (Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) have been able to set their own strategy for how they will include technology in care, which will be explored now.

In the 2018 report, Scotland’s Digital Health and Care Strategy: enabling, connecting and empowering [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (Scottish Government, 2018), the focus of digital innovation is often linked to empowering people to self-manage and live more independently. The report also describes the need for designing digital services using co-design methods with service users. This means that changes need to be made in collaboration with the people who are the recipients of services so the changes are made with the person at the centre of care. The report also describes how digital technology should be used as a way to ensure that social care systems are linked with health care systems appropriately to make sure that health and social care in Scotland is fit for the future.

In Northern Ireland, the eHealth and Social Care strategy (Health and Social Care Board, 2016) identified their priorities for how digital technology would benefit their care sector. Among these were the ability for the wide range of community and independent health and social care providers (including nursing homes) all being able to securely and consistently access the relevant service user data to ensure good care. There is also an intention to put individuals’ historical records in digital format so that care professionals can have detailed past history across all of the health and social care sector in Northern Ireland. The eHealth strategy also explains that technology will be able to help provide information which can be analysed to improve productivity and avoid waste of resources and effort.

These two examples show how each government can direct its focus on how it wants to use technology to change social care and how each nation can adopt a suitable approach for their particular population and their needs. These are both examples of digital strategies from the nations’ departments of health and social care about how they want technology to improve things. But how digital technology will actually go on to change and transform social care is unpredictable and we all may have our expectations about what will happen and what may or may not work in practice.

Activity 2 What strategy means to you

Thinking about these different strategies that are relevant to where you live, have you noticed any changes in your health and social care (whether you have been a patient, carer/family member, or a professional)? Do you think technology and digital changes like instant sharing of data and information has made care easier or made things more confusing and complicated? Comment on any differences you think you have noticed in relation to digital health and social care changes in the box below.

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