'Coronavirus has been a moment of exposure, of stark clarity.' These were the words of our health secretary, just last month.
'In terms of mobilising the resources of the state, the pandemic has been as close as you can get to fighting a war without actually fighting a war, he added.
Words which will undoubtedly resonate with the public sector teams who’ve worked tirelessly to tackle the spread of the virus, keep us safe, and continue to deliver the services we all depend on.
We’ve all seen how coronavirus has placed immense pressure on our local authorities – on social care, education and healthcare – since the start of lockdown, but what it’s also provided, is a very real and clear use case for remote and mobile working in councils across the country.
Pre-pandemic, this way of working often divided both the private and public sector worlds on whether it increased productivity and engagement, or disconnected staff from the office eco-system. Since March, many organisations have not had time to debate these concerns, and public sector departments have accelerated transformational change at record speed.
The catalyst for change
The rapid roll-out of technology in local government in recent months has also helped to raise the public’s expectations of the personalised and tech-enabled services they can receive. It in turn has set the bar high for tech providers to deliver exceptional solutions. We’re looking at how we can accelerate the development of our mobile solutions to help local authorities reduce costs, boost efficiencies, and crucially, to deliver more joined-up care.
Many of the councils we work with had embarked on their journeys towards digital transformation long before we’d all even heard of coronavirus, and we all know that integrated systems reduce errors, improve efficiency and most importantly, improve outcomes for people. But what the pandemic has done is shine a spotlight on the public sector’s ability to cope and adapt under pressure, and to deliver quality care at speed, using the technology available to them.
Mobilising the workforce
Mobile working has been helping to transform the ways in which social services provide help in the community since the beginning of the crisis, and it’s been allowing teams to work more collaboratively. While most regular activity is being undertaken virtually, some tasks simply cannot be carried out online. Social workers and carers, for example, must continue to conduct home visits and assessments for the most vulnerable. Mobile tech is giving social workers access to the right information at the point of care, and provides joined-up, modern and structured ways of working, resulting in better informed decisions.
Public portals are also enabling continued care in the community, by allowing anybody to submit safeguarding information about a person online. It creates another communication platform for the citizen while reducing the number of incoming phone calls to a council.
When it comes to joined-up care, we’ve seen time and time again in recent months why the health and social care sectors should work collaboratively. The charity Mencap revealed that more than 65% of people with a learning disability had their social care slashed by at least half during lockdown. With more potential cuts to come, it’s imperative that we continue to explore the benefits of mobile and app-based digital care, so that nobody falls under the radar, especially in the most vulnerable communities.
As we approach the winter months, NHS trusts will once again feel the pressure to free up acute beds as efficiently as possible to increase capacity for treating COVID-19 patients. Integrated systems enable seamless information flow between acute hospitals and social care, speeding up the transfer of care. Councils and hospitals can communicate directly through these systems, ensuring that when a person is clinically safe to be discharged, the information is relayed to the right person, as soon as possible.
Continuing the pace of change
The case for safe, secure sharing of data between systems and mobile apps to deliver an integrated approach to care, has certainly been proven in 2020.
As councils continue their move from static working environments to mobile ones, we, as a provider, must continue to develop the technology to keep the pace of transformational change we’ve seen so far this year.
When it comes to rolling out new technology in the public sector, COVID-19 has provided the most significant catalyst for change. Now is the best possible opportunity for local authorities to capitalise on the progress they’ve made and continue to embrace technology, along with all the benefits it can bring, and drive even further forward towards seamless joined-up care.
David McKinney is managing director of local government at Servelec