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When it comes to investment, social care is still the NHS’s “poor cousin” 

25th February 2021 about a 4 minute read
“When people are 70 or 80 maybe they want to go windsurfing. Why not? Let’s use technology to both support people’s dreams and protect the vulnerable.” Nick Weston, Chief Commercial Officer, Kemuri

Technology can enable people with care needs to stay in their own homes and live fruitful lives in a way they otherwise might not be able to.

It can help support people’s dreams, it can protect the vulnerable. But it’s not a ‘silver bullet’ that can solve every problem, a Future Care Capital webinar heard this week.

The event, which included presentations from leaders in the tech start-up field, was told that what the UK needed was “mindful innovation.”

The webinar, entitled Social Care: Technology and Transformation, saw the launch of the Future Care Capital Care Tech Landscape Review.

Lower investment than health start-ups

The report, which urged the government to co-ordinate investment in the digitisation of social care services across England, noted that the average investment in social care tech start-ups was £807,153.

This compared to an average of £3.4million for similar companies in the health sector.

Dr Peter Bloomfield, FCC Head of Policy and Research, said more research was needed to fully understand why there was such a major divergence in investment levels.

He added that another key finding of the report was how few tech companies were active in the social care market.

“We found some good examples of excellent technology improving people’s lives at home. Also the quality of care provided was very good.

“But I would have expected perhaps ten times the number of companies in some areas”.

Fragmented market

He added that one reason was the lack of an overall national programme unifying the fragmented market.

Sam Hussain, CEO/Founder of care management software company Log My Care, told the webinar that what struck him from the Landscape Review was how social care remained the “poor cousin” of the NHS.

“If we are to achieve meaningful change in this sector then the solution has to come from the top,” he said.

Philip Mundy, founder of the clinical communications platform Pando, said despite the difficulties around securing investment, his message to new start-ups was “don’t give up.”

“There’s probably never been a better time to raise private investment than now.

“It’s a broad category but anything that’s about wellbeing and quality of life is a priority for most venture capitalists, although the traditional funds are less receptive.”

Finding investors

Sam Hussain added that it was important to pick the right investor for a social care tech company. “It’s tough as there are fewer of them out there compared to health.

“We joined the Health Foundry and that helped. But when it comes to programmes like Digital Health London there’s no equivalent for social care and that’s been the biggest challenge for us.”

Nick Weston, Chief Commercial Officer at independent living tech company Kemuri, said it was important to understand the system. Companies must work with the current system rather than trying to change it.

“If you deliver technology you have to understand how the system of reimbursement works. Your charging structure and commercial model has to work with that.

“As for change more generally, if we look at the impact of the current pandemic, it has been a catalyst for change. The change was already there… it just needed help getting through the door”.

He added that technology was part of our lives and is not going away. “We are trying to minimise the impact of ageing…. As tech providers we want people to be able to stay in their own home and live fruitful lives.

“When people are 70 or 80 maybe they want to go windsurfing. Why not? Let’s use technology to both support people’s dreams and to protect the vulnerable.”

Technology is no ‘silver bullet’

Phillip Munday said for tech start-ups the issue was as much about what they don’t do with technology as what they do.

“Technology is not a sliver bullet… What we’re discussing here is human and it will remain human for some time. We must try to think about technology in a thoughtful and tactical way, where it can be advantageous.

“But don’t try and solve everything or change everything. The key is mindful innovation.”

You can view the Social Care: Technology & Transformation webinar here