£1.1m awarded for digital solutions to improve care for Milton Keynes residents

    Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System’s (BLMK ICS) Digitising Social Care (DiSC) programme is celebrating the success of its application for the latest wave of the NHS England’s Adult Social Care Technology Fund.

    In a joint application with the University of Hertfordshire and Health Innovation East, they faced stiff competition, as only three other health and care systems were awarded a share of £3.7m of funding.

    This award is a testament to the DiSC team’s hard work and collaborative working, across four local authority areas since 2020. The Digitising Social Care programme has introduced several technologies which are benefitting our residents receiving care and the care market. The funding, provided over 15 months, will be used to introduce new technologies as well as expand existing ones. These will include:

    PainChek – an electronic device which helps to identify and manage pain for those who are unable to communicate it verbally. It measures small changes in facial expressions and voice to quantify a pain score and guide carers to provide the right support. The funding will enable around 1,000 residents in a variety of settings to be assessed by their care provider.

    Around 1,300 care home residents will be provided with a robotic companion to provide comfort and decrease loneliness. Robopets provide a calming influence, give people greater independence and confidence, and improve mental health and wellbeing.

    Both innovations will improve wellbeing and quality of life for residents by reducing distress and anxiety, which will also be reassuring to their friends and families. Meanwhile, care quality and safety will be improved, as staff will have more time to focus on providing care and building relationships with residents and families.

    Clare Steward, Digitising Social Care Programme Director, said: “We are very aware that depression, loneliness and dementia are real challenges for our ageing population, and are keen to invest in solutions that would help improve the quality of life of our residents and reduce pressure on care services.”

    “Co-production and collaboration have always been very important to our team and after looking at a number of potential innovations, we have worked closely with our stakeholders and local care providers to agree which two schemes would most benefit our residents and providers.”

    Patricia Coker, Senior Responsible Officer for the Digitising Social Care programme, said: “The DiSC programme is a fantastic example of collaborative working between the NHS, local authorities and the care sector. Over the past two years, we have helped improve the experience of care for residents and saved valuable time for care staff to enable them to provide more personalised care. Securing this funding is a huge accolade for the team and means that we can continue supporting vulnerable adults for the next two years.”

    Felicity Cox, Chief Executive at the BLMK Integrated Care Board, said: “We are extremely proud of the amazing work the DiSC programme has delivered so far to improve the quality of care our local residents receive. The technologies already introduced have been very successful in improving digital communications, monitoring resident health and preventing falls. We look forward to seeing the benefits the new technologies will bring for local residents and care providers.”

    A team of researchers from the University of Hertfordshire (supported by the Applied Research Collaboration East of England and The Office of Health Economics) will evaluate the impact of introducing these technologies in different adult social care settings to support older people, including those living with dementia, and their carers.

    The evidence with be gathered through a mixture of methods and processes, including focus groups and observations to capture the experiences of service users, carers and key staff. The aim is to understand the acceptability, usability, cost-effectiveness and impacts as the schemes are implemented and adopted – to inform the development of an evidence-based plan for scale and spread across BLMK ICS. 

    For more information about the Digitising Social Care programme, visit https://blmkhealthandcarepartnership.org/about/our-priorities/data-and-digital/digitising-social-care-disc-programme/


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