APPG on Rural Health and Social Care inquiry response – technology opportunities and challenges
The impact of our ageing population is being hard-felt in rural communities across the country as demand for health and care provision continues to grow. The recent funding injection announced by the Government as part of the NHS long-term plan is to be welcomed but significant challenges remain. In addition, we are still waiting for the Government to publish its adult social care Green Paper, which most commentators agree is now long-overdue. Ministers need to pick up the pace if they are to develop a coherent cross-government response to our longevity which turns associated challenges into positive opportunities.
People who live in isolated rural areas must be empowered to play an active part in designing appropriate and responsive health and care services. In particular, the success of the Government’s health and care tech strategy will be predicated upon the extent to which it is genuinely user-led.
This inquiry response is informed by Future Care Capital’s (FCC) own research findings, consideration of new and emergent technologies, and health and care initiatives that are already in place, under development or being piloted at this time.
FCC believes that in order to effectively build on existing policy, Ministers and Whitehall officials could consider the following recommendations:
Recommendation 1: NHSX should commission further research into the potential of predicative healthcare tools to map and address specific health and care challenges in rural communities.
Recommendation 2: The Government’s loneliness strategy needs to be updated to focus more on championing independent living as a way to reduce loneliness and social isolation in later life.
Recommendation 3: The Government should consider establishing a joint taskforce, involving Defra and NHSX, which aims to encourage the rapid development of new technological innovations that improve frontline healthcare in rural settings.
Recommendation 4: The Government should consider developing a rural innovation strategy that considers the needs of patients and frontline professionals in health and care.
Recommendation 5: The Government Office for Science should be tasked by Ministers to work closely with local government and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to look at how planning and economic development policy might anticipate the advantages of automated vehicles in helping elderly and disabled people, particularly in rural areas of the country, to remain independent in their community.
Recommendation 6: The Harding review of the NHS workforce should accept the skills recommendations outlined in the Topol review about how to recruit and train sufficient numbers of specialist workers to service/develop new health and care technology. A plan should also be developed to factor in the future digital and tech skills needed amongst social care professionals.
Recommendation 7: In line with our care insight report, the Government should invest in a new national data analytic capability to improve care insight for commissioners, providers and business and, thereby, support the appraisal as well as product/service design activities needed to expedite the introduction of new care models.
Recommendation 8: In our forthcoming discussion paper we will recommend the co-production of a mechanism to distribute the benefits of data-driven innovation fairly within and between integrated care systems by frontline health and care organisations, NHSX, HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office.