From the Editor: Care England urges CQC to lead digital agenda

Care England has called on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to be at the forefront of driving digitalisation in the sector to boost outcomes.

Speaking during the webinar launch of the ‘Care Home of the Future’ campaign, chief executive Martin Green (pictured) said the CQC should conduct a digital audit of the sector to quantify existing uptake and identify gaps where providers may not have the capacity to invest in technology.

The call echoes recent evidence submitted by the representative body to the health and social care select committee’s ongoing ‘Social care: funding and workforce’ inquiry that called on the government to ensure all care settings have access to wifi and digital hardware to enable providers to run a service integrated with the NHS and other health partners. 

Care England believes digital technology can be used to facilitate better discharge processes and integrate health and social care patient records, thus allowing more patients to receive care in the community.

Digitalisation also frees up time for staff to perform care work and results in cost savings for providers, and can create value via financial efficiencies in the NHS, it adds.

“There might be a useful conversation for the regulator to have with government about a digital fund so that people can have the infrastructure available to make sure they can get the best use of digital,” said Green.

“There are so many enormous pots of resources around the NHS for digital and I think we need to be making sure that the social care sector has similar support,” he added.

Green said the CQC also has a role to ensure digital systems used by different providers are compatible, and that the data transfer process is "slick and easy”.

“The regulator needs to join up the dots around how we can use digital approaches and the data it produces to inform not only our own organisations but also sector planning and development,” he added.

Green said the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated the use of digital technology and its benefits, such as remote access to GPs.  

“I don’t think we’ll ever be in a position where we go back to where we were. This has been a challenging but quite inspirational moment about how it has shifted the paradigm around digital,” he added.

Digital technology could also "transform" the way the sector is regulated.

“If we had good access to real-time data, there would be far less need for the snapshot approach that we’ve got at the moment with inspections,” said Green.

“There are so many things where the regulator could be at the forefront of leading this agenda," he added.