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Are you really delivering the best care if you don’t know how safe your care home is?

If I may, I would like to start at the end.

I want to live in a world where providing exceptional care to those who need it is not only seen as a basic human right, but is also delivered as one, joined-up approach to care. Providing care puts the greatest responsibility on those whose duty it is to deliver and manage someone’s well-being. 

For a moment, I would like us to reflect on the past 10 years of care provision in the UK, though I’m sure this story is echoed in many parts of the world.

At the start of 2010, and almost without exception, the idea of using mobile technology to record and monitor someone’s care was practically unthinkable. This was down to three simple reasons:

  • The hardware wasn’t ready
  • The software wasn’t ready
  • The sector wasn’t ready.

When we talk about someone’s care requirements, we are often quite literally outlining the steps to prevent someone becoming critically unwell, or worse. Now put yourself in the shoes of those responsible for overseeing this care, both morally and in a legal sense, and ask yourself this question ‘How certain am I that the care being delivered is good enough?’. This question underpinned a spark that set off a reaction that changed the world of care forever. 

Back then, it was almost impossible for a care manager to have a view of their world that wasn’t just a blur of paperwork, emails, hardcopy documents that were sometimes hard to read or worryingly, missing. You can only imagine the anxiety this caused when things went wrong (which they inevitably did and still do), or legislation changed and the care provider suddenly found themselves potentially on the wrong side of the law.

The embers were often and fiercely stoked as a seemingly endless reem of stories would hit the headlines accusing care providers of poor standards, malpractice, wrong medications, and neglect. 

Now, as the son of a nurse, and brother to two more, I knew that these stories couldn’t represent the same group of people that I knew and loved. And of course, they do not – but bad news sells. Clearly, this was an unfair, sweeping generalisation of thousands of diligent, hard-working, and compassionate care professionals across the UK. However, the question of certainty remained: How can we be certain, beyond all reasonable doubt, that we are delivering the care according to someone’s care plan.

From here, an increasing pressure to improve the way we managed and recorded care provision could be felt, from both sides of the fence. On one side, those receiving care and their families, worried that they would be victims of these horror stories plastered all over the news. Whilst on the other, great care providers who were losing sleep wondering if they would end up in court or prison due to poor paper-based practices that underpinned care delivery.

Over next few years, several credible solutions were developed to support care providers to achieve the clarity and certainty of their care delivery. For instance, acoustic monitoring devices, underfloor pressure pads or, perhaps more powerful, digital care recording platforms that provide carers with the tools needed to record the care being delivered simply and effectively. This has given care providers the real-time, actionable data they needed to maximise their efficacy and provide the highest levels of care, whilst offering other stake holders, such as the care receiver, their families and emergency services, the critical information they need, when they need it. 

The rapid growth of digitisation in care to achieve accountability for the care being delivered through transparency of information in organisations has continued apace. Coupled with the ability to monitor and react to this information in real time, the sector has created a world where care is being delivered in an open and holistic manner and care quality is on the rise.

Thankfully, it is now widely accepted that digital care recording and monitoring is seen as best practice and largely expected by user, care provider and regulator. 

Ok, I hear you, what does any of this have to do with building safety?

Well, let me tell you…

If we take a residential care home, a long- or short-term facility, ensuring the well-being of those who require care doesn’t end at personal care. Not only that, but there are potentially numerous other building users whose safety we should consider.

On April 29th 2021 the Fire Safety Act was passed by parliament. This Act, along with the Building Safety Bill (due to pass later in 2021) and the introduction of a building regulator, is in direct response to the tragic fire that took the lives of 72 people at Grenfell in 2017, 15 of which were vulnerable individuals. The Act brings with it a number of changes that are relevant to all buildings where there is more than one dwelling and any building over 11m in height – which covers a great deal of the care homes in the UK.

This means that building owners, or those with responsibility for the safety of building users, will now be responsible for ensuring the mandatory compliance standards of a building are maintained. The introduction of Safety Assurance Certificates for any residential building >18m (which could drop to >11m) using Building Safety Case Files that will require building owners to present a report, substantiated with a body of evidence, to showcase how they are managing their buildings effectively. Seemingly, this mirrors the current CQC inspection process, wherein you will be graded, and subsequent measures put in place if you fail to meet the regulatory standards – a process drastically improved through the use of digital recording systems.

With immediate effect, legally this will cover fire and structural safety. However, the longer-term Building Safety Bill implications will also bring electrical, gas, water, lifts and asbestos into consideration. Both also make it abundantly clear that it will no longer be acceptable to cultivate an arms-length approach to safety by merely instructing contractors to complete the work. Instead, the responsibility will firmly lie with the building owner or responsible individual to have oversight of the safety management of their buildings.

In her report, Building A Safer Future, Dame Judith Hackitt calls for increased accountability in how we manage our buildings through transparency of information, and the need to store this information for future users – a Golden Thread of Information. It is evident that this strongly parallels the struggle of pre-digital care records.

Fundamentally, care is assessed against four key performance indicators: Safe, Effective, Caring and Well-led. It is clear to me that, not least of all legally, that ensuring your care environment is safe to use should be a fundamental consideration for those in your care. 

Thankfully, as with care delivery, there are credible solutions available for you to monitor and manage the safety of your buildings and building users. It is not important which option you choose, but what is important is to understand that everyone who uses your building, whether that be staff, visitors, or care receivers, are all under your care when it comes to their safety.

I urge you to deliver complete care by taking responsibility and taking your first steps on the digital journey to making your homes safer to be in for everyone. 

Jake Archer, Evident Software

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