Future proofing the power of social care data

By Ben Chance | 09 July 2020

Before the pandemic, councils were already recognising the powerful role social care data could play in maximising intelligence, mitigating risks and delivering real-time market insight.  

Many had identified the value in collaborating across locations and regions to harmonise data collection, reduce duplication and deliver actionable data.

The PAMMS (Provider Assessment & Market Management Solution) was driven by the needs of adult social care directors and already reaches localities in six Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) regions and involves over 50 local authorities.

One of these was the London ADASS region who, in February 2019, embarked on a project to capture a quarterly ‘core set of quality standards’ across all of its 32 boroughs with the ambition of improving care quality and sustainability.  The data would allow them to manage by exception.

They had started rolling out the highly flexible PAMMS market insight solution, and when the pandemic hit the UK, they were able to quickly evolve the platform to become a vital COVID-19 data collection tool.

By mid-March, before the UK went into lockdown, London ADASS recognised that to understand the full scale of the challenges being faced in social care they needed daily COVID-19 data from all providers. This started out covering personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, staffing levels / COVID cases, residents / service user COVID cases and capacity. A lead officer was identified as a single point of contact to coordinate the local response and ensure the management of relationships with providers in localities.

A range of SITREP reports were developed just days after the data collection started to provide regional and local insight and were mechanised by having twice daily calls at the height of the pandemic, providing support and guidance at a time of constant change.

Directors and commissioners had the ability to make informed decisions about services and adapt their data collection, alongside stakeholders. The collaborative nature of the work allowed oversight of out of borough placements, and critically allowed the London Fire Brigade to deliver PPE to those most in need.   

The London School of Economics have also used the data for modelling, producing daily ‘Market Intelligence Reports’, alongside key themed workshops within the region and creating alerts of any emerging risks – a testament to the power of this data.

To ensure a true partnership approach to the pandemic response a governance structure was created with an Adult Social Care Market Insight Board. This board fed into four work streams;

  • Technical (including liaising with and information sent to the CQC)
  • Data Analytics (ensuring agreed data sets are proportionate and data is quality assured, analysed and presented in the most effective way)
  • Single Point of Contacts (to ensure providers are fully engaged, supported and are benefitting from embedding the market insight tool into their core business function)
  • Provider Reference Groups

Ensuring the initiative supported providers was vital, so alongside the board, a single point of London-wide provider information was established including a provider portal. As providers log their daily COVID-19 responses, the portal provides useful pieces of information relating to training initiatives, funding opportunities, testing and other support and guidance.

It was crucial for a nuanced response during COVID-19 to be able to cope with any emerging threats or risks and for the technology to adapt quickly. As the crisis altered on a daily basis, so did provider support plans, PPE requirements and testing requirements.

Many of the London boroughs have highlighted in published reports that having this data undoubtedly made a difference to their ability to respond where support was most needed.

With the focus slowly starting to return to statutory responsibilities, market insight data still has a key role to play. To support London ADASS as they transition to the ‘new normal’, PAMMS will continue to capture quality standards across the capital, whilst also ensuring COVID-19 data is monitored to support providers (and the wider adult care social sector), in managing potential future outbreaks. Market insight will also provide financial sustainability, spend and placement data and quality and contract management indicators to give a broader picture at a time of increased challenges.

The recently published ADASS Coronavirus Survey has highlighted the need for greater access to data and analytics. With an industry that was already feeling the pressure, the report stated that ‘coronavirus has made extremely fragile care markets even more susceptible to market failure at the detriment to those people accessing care and support services.’

Interestingly the survey reported that ‘a substantial majority of directors do not believe the National Sitreps give them enough information to manage their local care markets and will continue to collect their own local market information.’

Whilst a national overview of data is required, the power of local market insight that provides data on a regional, sub-regional and local level, should not be underestimated. This echoes the feedback about long-term value London boroughs are able to see in market insight data for ongoing risk management, understanding provider sustainability and keeping a grip on market capacity.

As attention turns back to quality of life, from preservation of life, having up-to-date intelligence about care markets is going to be crucial to ensuring councils can support the vulnerable people who rely on them.

Ben Chance is head of PAMMS at HAS Technology Group

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