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The National Care Forum: Transforming the Care Space, An Interview with Vic Rayner

Vic Rayner, Executive Director of The National Care Forum

The National Care Forum was developed 25 years ago to support the not-for-profit part care sector, which makes up about 20 percent of providers. We talked to Vic Rayner, the Forum’s Executive Director, about the work the organisation does to promote quality care and help its members to innovate, respond to change and transform the care space for the future.

What is the work of the National Care Forum (NCF) and why is it important?

The NCF is a national membership organisation for not-for-profit care providers. Our focus is on promoting quality care, and we do this in a range of ways. We connect members with each other to share best practice, connect members with governments and decision-makers and also bring an international focus through looking at work done in other countries. We provide critical information to shape and inform policy and practice and are the strongest voice for the not for profit care sector.

A key focus of our work is the development of innovative responses to the care needs of a changing population. We’re interested in how changes in innovation in all shapes and forms can enhance the sector’s ability to meet the needs of people who use these services as well as developing different models of delivery that can improve the experience of people who need care.

Is it important to give the not-for-profit sector a strong voice today?

Absolutely! The not for profit sector has a unique contribution to make. The first thing to mention is the strong value base of all not-for-profit organisations - the key to this is putting people at the heart of all provision.

In many organisations, you’ve also got the capacity to bring in volunteers and depending on the organisation, to offer a strong community connection. Many of these organisations have existed for 50, 100 and even 200 years within communities, they have a special role to play there, and we think that’s incredibly important to support and sustain.

In addition, all the funds available within a not-for-profit organisation are being reinvested into ensuring the needs of people are being met, enhancing the workforce, improving buildings and into innovation and change.

"Many [not-for-profit] organisations have existed for years within communities. They have a special role to play, and we think that’s incredibly important to support and sustain."

What does quality care look like - and how do we get there if we haven’t got it?

Good quality care is care that is built around the needs of the individual using the services. It gives that person a clear opportunity to exercise choice and control over how things happen around their particular set of circumstances, needs, interests and preferences.

Quality care has the voices and needs of people who use services at its core. This means that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ or a ‘tick-box approach’ to quality. It has to run as a thread, through an organisation, from the leadership right down to every interaction that is delivered to individuals.

We know that there’s a lot more to be done around good quality care in the sector in terms of strengthening areas around leadership and safeguarding, for example. And you can’t reach a level of quality and stop there; you have to keep developing and improving, and that’s partly because we live in an ever-changing world and the kinds of people who are now receiving services are often much frailer and have more complex co-morbidities and so forth.

Finally, a great strength of National Care Forum members is a strong sense of collective action around this agenda, and with that a willingness to share information, ideas and support each other to develop and promote quality across the sector.

The National Care Forum has established a reputation for innovation, how are you developing this and why?

Innovation comes in many shapes and forms. The not-for-profit sector has a very strong tradition of innovation, and many of the new developments around working with people with complex needs, redesigning the built environment, approaches to workforce development and service delivery in the field of later life care have emanated from within this group of independent care providers. We are proud of this tradition of innovation and are keen to continue its passage.

One of the key opportunities that is on our minds is technology enhanced innovation. We are keen to work with our members, and with technology suppliers and developers, to understand what is out there and what the sector needs.

"What I hope some of this new future thinking will do is make care a less frightening proposition to people."

There has been a significant technological transformation in the last 15 years in almost all sectors in the UK, but very limited change within the care sector, so it’s really ripe for it. And there are lots of ways in which we’re helping members to think about what that might look like.

Part of that change could be relatively straightforward things such as looking at electronic medication management systems or electronic care planning systems that begin to reduce the amount of time that people need to spend on recording.

In the context of a care plan, you might be recording a couple of hundred interventions a day. If you’ve got to go and write those down somewhere, generally you’re having to leave the person that you’re working with to do that and often trying to do it by recall.

Electronic care planning is one of the ways in which we can really begin to transform that process – and also do something with that information. Instead of it then going into a filing cabinet and being read as part of handover, we can extract data and say, “We’ve been working with this person for the last ten days in this way, and there’s been a real transformation in their physical strength or mood” etc.

Obviously, moving forward, there are also questions around the workforce and what the role of robotics might be – and there are real possibilities around that, not in the sense of replacing people, but perhaps getting robots to do things that people are less keen on, or don’t need to do.

For example, I saw a showcase recently of a robotised trolley, which goes from room to room with you and takes all the dirty linen back to the laundry. It goes to the lift which automatically recognises the signal from the trolley, and the lift opens up and takes it to the right floor.

For more updates relating to the care sector, follow Vic Rayner on Twitter.

For more information on improving the lives of people who use care services, check out The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) on Twitter.

At our recent conference we brought together frontline managers from all over the country, and as part of this, we had a big tech festival. It involved all sorts of suppliers, from people making exoskeleton suits, robots and niche products for people with dementia to developers of new bed technology to support people with pressure sores and balancing boards to help improve core balance.

We ran the festival a bit like a speed dating event - managers had ten minutes or so to learn about a particular product. However, it was critically important they also had a chance to try out the technology themselves and ask the questions they needed to, such as, “what will happen if this breaks or I forget the password or somebody drops it?”

Are the simple technology solutions going to be the most effective in creating greater quality of life for those needing care?

Some of the adjustments that are being talked about at the moment might be small, but they’re very sophisticated in what they do. Acoustic monitoring tech has been used in the Netherlands for the last 20 years, for example. It consists of a microphone behind your head that picks up on noise within your room, and if you need help, then somebody can come to you immediately to check that you’re okay.

It is very simple in many ways, and an unobtrusive piece of tech, but what it means is that the staff who are available at night are only working with the people who really need them - and those who are sleeping are not being disturbed on an hourly basis to check that they’re okay. It’s transformative really, in terms of protecting individuals’ space, and meeting people’s needs.

What’s the biggest potential for change in the next ten years for the not-for-profit care sector?

We will probably see a transformation in the models of care that are being delivered within the not-for-profit care sector over the next ten years. We talked earlier about technology having been rather static within care provision, and we’ve still got relatively standardised models of home care and residential care. However, we are already beginning to see some real leadership within the not-for-profit sector around how services can be transformed to meet current and emerging needs.

The needs of people are changing dramatically, and I think different types of care models will appear: services that are much more geared around short-term respite-type provision, or blended home care and residential services. I think the sector will become more diverse and also maybe need to be more fluid to meet changing care needs.

The voice of people who want to use care services now and in the future will become ever more important. It is imperative that the not-for-profit sector plays its part in creating a clearer narrative about the role of care in society, and provides opportunities for people in the wider community to engage and shape care provision.

Technology will also allow a lot of different things to happen, particularly in the independent home space and there’s some real game changers for people via artificial intelligence and remote monitoring. As such, we will be asking ever more of the workforce in terms of development, expertise and decision making. So I think we’ll be looking at a workforce too that is increasingly recognised for its contribution, expertise and skill set.

Do you feel there is a positive future for care?

Absolutely. These are challenging times to be a care provider in any type of environment, but actually, I think we have a real opportunity to look towards what those future care needs will be, and some of the tools that will help us make that leap forward.

The big challenge is that people don’t think about care until they are in crisis. What I hope some of this new future thinking will do is make care a less frightening proposition and make people feel that the care we will be able to offer in the future will be more flexible and responsive.

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