Digital disruption in NI social care sector key to saving providers hundreds of thousands of pounds per year

BY Fearghal McKinney, Co-Founder, PickaShift App

A recent economic study by the Northern Ireland Social Care Council showed that the overall contribution to the economy of the adult social care sector was over £800m - supporting employment for over 100,000 people here. Set against the context of such a small population these are significant numbers.

It also shows that the reliance on the social care sector is high and that it is a lifeline for many. Not only do nursing and residential care homes provide much-needed care for individuals, it also assists the family members and friends of those who need support.

Fearghal McKinney, PickaShift App

Fearghal McKinney, PickaShift App

The sector provides a range of jobs in local communities right across Northern Ireland and gives opportunity to those who work in the sector the chance to gain qualifications and skills which may not always be available in other sectors.

The NI Social Care Council pointed out in their report that the impact of sustainable jobs and chance to upskill collectively in this sector helps to knit together the social fabric of our villages and towns across Northern Ireland.

High staff costs

A vibrant local residential and nursing home offer is important for local communities, but they are expensive to run due to the high input costs. These homes often face significant bills when it comes to filling shifts at short notice because of illness or holiday cover. The home does not have a choice – the shift must be filled to comply. It means they often must turn to expensive agencies.

Ensuring that a home has the right staff in place at all times is often a difficult and expensive job for home owners. The care home sector is heavily regulated to ensure standards are met by health and social care providers so that qualified staff are on duty at all times. Failure to do so has consequences for the provider.

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Against the backdrop of pressured budgets, along with the strength of agencies in the market, homecare businesses are constantly looking for ways to cut costs and increase productivity.

Technology provides solution

In December, the Adult Social Care Report ‘Power to People: Proposals to reboot Adult Social Care and Support in NI’ detailed that the use of technology in the sector is underutilised but has enormous potential to assist in the provision of care here.

As a response to this problem, we have developed a new app called PickaShift. Care homes using the app save in terms of costly administration, a bigger pool of certified available staff can benefit from more work and pay and the home owner can avoid paying the expensive agency.  Employers and staff both benefit, which ensures a consistent level of service provision for those in their care.

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The idea of the PickaShift app has been developed in direct response to the growing pressures that nursing and residential homes have found themselves in, due to a growing ageing population and the scarcity of supply of staff.

By helping to cut down on the administration process, and providing an alternative to expensive agency fees, Pickashift is helping to address these issues while also delivering significant savings. In some cases, this could be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds for larger care home providers.