The UK’s adult social care sector comprises 39,000 establishments, of which at least half provide residential care – employing more than 1.5 million staff and accounting for over 5% of the entire British workforce.
However, sustained and ongoing pressures have meant many care homes and residential care facilities need to urgently rethink the way they work and deliver high-quality care.
This need is coupled with the ever-growing demand for care home business placements amid an ageing population and growing reliance on care providers to take the burden away from primary healthcare services.
Modern, agile and fast telephone systems can provide a solution as a baseline for advanced communications, record-keeping and monitoring that delivers excellent returns in productivity, care home capacity and quality services.
Why Is There Pressure on UK Care Home Industry to Evolve?
A quick recap of the statistics illustrates the need to balance demand vs. capacity for many of the thousands of care homes and home care agencies operating in the UK:
· The number of care home residents rose 3.1% between 2022 and 2023 – an increase the ONS characterises as ‘statistically significant’. That means an additional 370,000 adults are now in need of full-time residential care.
· Projections show that, as we become healthier and live longer, the number of care home beds is not keeping close to rising demand – the number of beds available per 100 people over 85 has dropped from 33 to 28 in the last 13 years.
· In 2019-20, the number of homes closing vs. the number opening resulted in a net loss of 111 facilities, often due to issues with funding and filling staff vacancies. In June 2022, the CQC reported that there were over 132,000 unfilled posts, with a vacancy rate of just under 10%, having reached their highest point in the last five years.
Cumulatively, these figures show that demand for care home places is rising at an unprecedented rate, and many are finding it challenging to cope. The situation is also set to become more intense with government announcements of changes to the way patients are discharged from hospitals, depending on care facilities and community care organisations to safeguard the needs of patients post-hospital stay.
All of this shows a profound and critical need for care homes to become more efficient and effective, even where the number of residents may be growing without an equally growing workforce to provide hands-on support and assistance.
This is where care home telecoms and unified communication systems come in, ensuring administrative tasks are automated, streamlined, scalable and adaptive, reducing the time burdens on staff, freeing up capacity to care for patients, minimising any potential for errors, and even reducing overheads.
Why Are Modern Phone Systems Important to Care Homes?
Put simply, conventional phone lines may not be suitable for busy care homes. Many are unnecessarily costly in terms of line rental and call costs, do not have the functionality to add new lines, sap resources when connections need routine maintenance, deliver poor call quality, or cannot manage large call volumes during peak usage periods.
Digital technology is a useful, and often vital resource for care facilities, where home managers need to update their processes. There are multiple benefits:
· Automatically directing calls to the appropriate colleague or desk, rather than trying to filter all calls through one point – leading to frustration when callers receive an engaged tone or cannot get through.
· Providing unlimited call access, ensuring every resident can stay in touch with their loved ones without causing any issues due to bottlenecks of call traffic.
· Enhanced call functionality and new features such as voicemail recording, call menus to help callers find the correct information, call recording for essential quality control purposes, and auto-redirects in emergencies.
· Remote and virtual call handling software, enabling carers and coordinators to remain in contact when they are in or out of the care home and when travelling around the facility.
· Reliable call availability with reduced costs, routing calls through the internet rather than relying on wired functionality – and mitigating any disruption when conventional copper lines are switched off in two years.
· Providing excellent customer service to families making enquiries or calling for updates, logging calls to ensure all messages are responded to or instructions are recorded on residents’ records.
Care homes can receive hundreds of calls daily from relatives, healthcare providers, GPs, vendors, staff, suppliers, and other connected care facilities. Adding a swift, always-on and highly dependable care home phone system removes administrative time pressures while improving communications for residents and families.
Which Communications Solutions Can Help Care Homes Scale?
There are two primary time pressures on care home workforces – administration and resident care. Care home support staff commonly find that improved communications rapidly and sustainably reduce the time they spend answering calls, forwarding calls from family members, and taking messages for nursing staff.
Advanced tech can remove a large proportion of these tasks using automation, auto-recording and forwarding, and call recording. Care homes may have opportunities to reduce the balance of the day senior colleagues spend on admin tasks and improve the time they have to interact with patients, supervise patient care or provide family liaison services.
Residents and families benefit from better communications, direct access to their loved ones at any time, and improved functions.
Further benefits are available through introducing phone systems with video calling software, which can be invaluable to ensuring residents are comfortable and happy, keeping in touch with family members who are unable to visit, or maintaining their connection when isolating or unwell.
Virtual video conferencing software introduced through internet-based phone lines can also be a great resource for busy care home professionals, interacting with colleagues, supervisors and third-party healthcare providers on a face-to-face basis, without needing to leave the facility, account for travel time or try and navigate an unreliable call with poor sound quality.
Moving away from desk-based telephone systems and installing a cutting-edge replacement is a fantastic solution for busy care homes, ensuring that admin functions and communications are well-managed – helping to ease pressures across the board. Maximum Networks welcomes any care home businesses to get in touch at any time or complete our short enquiry form, for support and guidance for care home solutions.