In a recent blogpost responding the to the announcement of £5.4bn funding for health and social care, my colleague Michael Kitts looked at some of the key ways that local authorities can shift the dial to ensure sustainable, high quality care for residents. At the top of this list was managing demand – something that IMPOWER has been working on with clients for many years as the most sustainable way to deliver better outcomes that cost less.
But, what does managing demand look like in adult social care? There are two key areas to consider, both of which focus on maximising an individual’s independence. The first of these is finding ways to enable residents to live at home safely without the need for local authority support. The second is (if they require support) ensuring their needs do not escalate.
My recent experience – spread across a London Borough, a metropolitan district and a large, rural unitary – has shown that addressing both areas requires three things.
- Understand your demand – there are lots of ways to do this, through analysing the demand that already exists and reviewing individual residents to understand their lived experience and how they could be supported earlier. A new approach to this is using the latest thinking in technology enabled care (TEC) to provide a range of data, insights and information to understand when, where and how demand is emerging – either by looking at individuals or data from across an area. These predictive analytics enable social care teams to invest in the right support – in the right place, at the right time – building on and avoiding delivering only post-hoc care.
- Act on your demand – once demand is understood, it needs to be acted upon. This is best achieved at the earliest point, through effective early intervention and prevention activity, often delivered in the community by the voluntary and community sector. However, where support is required from the council, we find there are two particularly effective approaches: the establishment of a short-term offer, wrapping a range of support around individuals including reablement, occupational therapy and TEC, and; a strengths-based practice approach that identifies how residents can use their existing networks and strengths to remain independent. We have delivered these approaches across a number of councils with impressive results, as you can see from our
- Balance across the system – social care is not an island, so working with partners across the health and social care system is critical. Discharge to Assess (D2A) programmes are a great example of where, when organisations work together, they can create significant impact but also where the rush to get people home can drive demand on social care through the roof. Striking a balance across the whole system is crucial for managing long-term demand and improving resident outcomes.
Managing demand is just one part of a complex set of activities to create a sustainable health and social care system, but in our view it is a critical one – and one where we have demonstrated that delivering better outcomes that cost less is achievable.