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Octopus Real Estate, Carterwood and Care England co-host event with industry figures to map the future of care

13 Mar 2020 By Jayne Shawcross

Part of the Next Generation Initiative

Recently, Octopus Real Estate, Carterwood and Care England co-hosted their most recent in a series of thought-leadership events, focused on mapping the future of care in the UK.

The event was focused on bringing together some of the youngest and inspiring leadership teams from care homes across the country with an aim to try and understand challenges and opportunities for the future of the care sector. Key areas of discussion covered funding, staffing and business models. All are core to enabling the sector to uphold and improve on benchmarks and deliver better care.

The impact of demographics on social care funding

The group discussed that changes to how care is funded in the future are inevitable. The ‘baby boomer’ generation is known to generally have greater asset wealth than previous or potentially future generations. As such, this generation may still continue to be able to support the current structure of funding for social care, but the landscape will change dramatically for subsequent generations.

Our ageing society also means that the pressure to find funding for social care will be compounded. We are reaching the end of an era where many of those retiring are on final salary pension schemes. So, the demographic able to comfortably pay for private care homes will begin to decline after 2030.

Government funding for care and better financial planning

If future generations are likely to find it harder to pay for private care homes, and there is a growing demand, the government will likely have to act to fund increases in available care home places. This points to taxation becoming a potentially important funding source for the provision of care in the next ten years. This may include more ring-fenced fiscal policies, and a far more integrated funding approach to health and social care.

There will also be a role for financial services providers to play in developing products and services that encourage people to consider their long-term needs earlier on. This will include better financial planning from a younger age, with clearer explanations of how pensions and savings will have to work to support their future aspirations. Could we see a GCSE in personal finances on the horizon? Grassroots education could well be something that helps future generations become more financially secure in later life.

An integrated approach to funding

To date, private sector and charitable investment has been at the centre of the development of social care in the UK. In future it will need to continue encouraging, and remain attractive to, these forms of investment. For this to happen, greater confidence and certainty around funding, workforce availability and development/planning policy will be important. With Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors becoming increasingly important to investors, care homes provide a natural wealth of social value and could become an asset class that attracts even more investment from real estate investors.

Another point made during discussion was that we need to recognise social care as a fundamental component of improving the overall health and wellbeing of the population. Care homes shouldn’t be seen as separate from our healthcare system in the UK, dominated by narrative around the NHS. This will be essential to overcoming the challenge of funding health and social care as part of an integrated whole-system approach.

Protecting sector reputation and attracting staff

It’s accepted that there is still a negative perception of the care sector in the UK and that this can affect people’s decisions when considering a career in the care sector. Accordingly, there was a general consensus among the group that improving the sector’s reputation will help it attract and retain staff over the next twenty years.

To draw in the best talent, and revitalise the sector, it will need a workforce from all walks of life and all career stages. This could include professionals from outside the sector. We can learn a lot from other industries about how to reposition the narrative around social care. This will feed into how to present and promote a more structured, professional approach to career development.

A continued move to embrace new technology, including robotics, will also be integral to people seeing care roles as desirable. There is also a need for staff, in particular nurses, to feel valued as clinical team members, and be challenged in their roles. This is not always the case, as they’re often given menial tasks or left with the administration. Taking steps to make lasting change in this area will be crucial.

Considering options for care professionals

It’s also important to consider the career options that care professionals will be looking for in the future. When weighing up their potential future career pathways, clinical and care staff will naturally compare care homes to the NHS and private hospitals. So securing a workforce in the future will not only be affected by our reputation, but also the reputation of the alternatives.

The organisations which move at a faster pace, offering a better career path and embracing technological innovation, are those which will gain ground. It’s important for the care home sector to understand that investing in these areas isn’t just about short-term deliverables, but also about securing their operational capacity for the future.

Overcoming complexity in care

More broadly, when thinking about care professionals, we also need to look at how social care is becoming more complex. It is no longer a binary choice, but a wide spectrum of services, with a number of silos within the sector. While this makes for more choice and support, it is also leading to confusion and complexity around what social care is. To some, social care means mental health services, to others it can mean round-the-clock clinical care, and for others still it can be domiciliary monitoring. The language around the sector needs to evolve as our models of care change.

This impacts a number of different macro factors for the sector, including investment, policy and consumer demand.

By helping to promote a common narrative, and creating clear models of care, this could lead to more positive views on a career in the sector.

The importance of technology 

Technology will play a huge role in shaping future models for health and social care. As technology advances, we will understand conditions affecting the elderly better, and diagnostic capabilities will improve. With the emphasis on prevention rather than cure, the onset of conditions will be delayed, meaning people will stay healthier for longer. We may see more options for individuals to take control of their own healthcare requirements.

Care environments could also become more intuitive and responsive to changing needs, with devices providing better hands-on support. We could also see the real estate and built environment using technology such as mobile wearable exo-suits in the ‘able’ period of someone’s life, rather than waiting until a ‘less able’ period.

Technology will also influence future workforce needs. Greater efficiencies should release resource constraints, and improved transparency of data will help shape care pathways. However, technology will not replace the need for human interaction, compassion and socialisation.

Alternative future models for care

By 2050, there is likely to be more inter-generational living in the UK. This could be for two reasons. There may not be enough real estate available for the elderly. Or, methods of diagnosis and treatment of conditions will have become so much more advanced that people will be able to administer their own care in their own homes.

This could also lead to a change in care delivery, where robotics and remote services will be used. ‘Virtual’ nurses could be available on-demand at any time; day or night. Real-time data feeds from an Internet-of-Things environment could ensure the delivery of correct, accurate and constant clinical adjustments.

Inter-generational living presents a model where people may be able to delay the onset of needing specialist clinical care until later years.

Working towards a brighter future for care

We all know that our sector faces challenges and that it is vital to address these. We believe that events such as this one provide an essential platform for discussion. They enable participants to hear from experts, consider how we can each contribute, and create a stronger sector.

The work we are all doing now is helping to shape the future of care. It ranges from engaging decision-makers on funding, to considering the industry’s reputation, treating staff as key stakeholders, and integrating technology into care homes. It can also include sharing best practice with industry peers, with a view to influencing the development of better standards, from benchmarks to policies.

We were really pleased to be part of this event as a sponsor and co-host, and to take part in the debate. Octopus Real Estate remains committed to supporting the work of the Next Generation initiative and the progress of the care sector. Our team continues to work on providing exceptional healthcare facilities, with a focus on a better experience for customers. We are here to invest, develop and create partnerships for the future of the UK’s healthcare infrastructure.

Drawing together industry expertise

Octopus Real Estate was represented by CEO Benjamin Davis, as well as Sheila Hendy, Clinical Assurance Director, and Jayne Shawcross, Head of Customer. Carterwood, the leading provider of data and analysis in the sector, was represented by Managing Director Amanda Nurse and Tom Hartley, Director. Care England, the UK’s largest representative body for independent care providers, was represented by Treasurer Vishal Shah, also the Managing Director of Banyan Care.

Guests included Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England. Having Professor Green there, as a leading light in the sector, and the recipient of an OBE for his services to social care, helped strategically shape the conversation.

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