An interview with National Care Forum's Claire Sutton

Tell us about yourself, your professional background and your work within the National Care Forum (NCF)?

Hi, I’m Claire Sutton, I’m a registered nurse, and Digital Transformation Lead at the National Care Forum. NCF is the membership body for not-for-profit adult social care providers in England, our members operate a huge variety of different types of social care provision including care homes (with, and without nursing), home care, supported living, day centres, and housing with care. They run services throughout the country, some nationally and others at a more local level.

I have worked in a number of different settings myself including private hospitals, nursing homes, and on the clinical safety team for a health and social care software company. I joined NCF in February 2019 and since then have been involved in lots of different projects all with the common theme of improving digital adoption, and the better use of data within health and social care.

I think it’s really important that social care organisations are supported to make the right choices to enable them to provide the best possible care to the people who access their services. Social care providers know so much about the people they support. Healthcare is often episodic in its nature – being there to help individuals with specific needs around their physical, mental, and emotional health, but social care very often supports individuals in a very holistic way. Social care providers know a huge depth and breadth of detail about individuals and this detail is incredibly important for people.

How can our organisations – PRSB and NCF – make a real difference to people’s experience of care and treatment?

For me, NCF and PRSB can make huge impacts by helping to ensure people’s valuable information is seen by all care providers. For instance a social care provider will often know lots about someone’s preferences. A great example of this might be if someone really prefers to drink a cup of tea from a china cup and saucer or a chunky mug. If that person is at risk of dehydration then these preferences become really important to their wellbeing and their risk of becoming unwell. Small things like this can make a massive difference and ensuring that examples like this are woven through someone’s health and care record can have really big impacts. NCF and PRSB can work with care providers, other healthcare providers, and local and national government bodies to really show the importance of where consistent, clear record keeping can truly impact people’s experiences.

Standards such as About Me are absolutely key to ensuring that care at all levels is person centred. Standards such as Urgent Transfer from Care Home to Hospital, and Care Homes View Of Shared Care Records help ensure that there is a consistency of care across all settings where a person might receive care. Data Saves Lives – and all professionals involved in an individuals care and support having access to this data is paramount!

What made you interested in the digital transformation, digital solutions and data standards?

I returned to university as a ‘mature student’ to study nursing in 2010. My father sadly passed away in 2007 of brain cancer. He received some amazing care, but also some care that really wasn’t so amazing and I wanted to ‘change the world’. I quickly realised that changing the world as a frontline nurse is achievable but that I could only change the worlds of a few people every day, and that in order to change the world for more people I would need to help support colleagues from across health and social care. I’ve always been passionate about the use of technology to improve people’s experiences and been an advocate for how data and digital can be a great tool to support change so and this really shaped my career. Throughout the last decade I’ve seen that different settings often use different digital tools and I believe that using standards to make these tools speak to each other will be of huge benefit to people who are accessing services, but also to people working within them.

Which areas of PRSB’s work are you most interested in and why?

I really love the way PRSB always includes social care in its priorities. So many of the standards are completely applicable across both health and social care and this is really important. As I mentioned earlier social care providers often know a lot about the people that they support and sometimes this really in depth understanding of a person isn’t always seen as a priority.

What should the future priorities for information standards in social care be? What are the key issues that NCF are focused on?

I would really like to see true parity of esteem between health and social care. I’d like to see the data held within social care records, and health records become interoperable and integrated. I think core standards that work for all parties supporting a person would be a great goal to work toward and use of information standards is an ideal way to achieve this whilst minimising the workload on frontline staff across health and social care.

This does feel like a huge goal to be aiming for though and the immediate priorities need to be supporting care providers to become more digital. Getting really high levels of use of secure email to communicate, and high levels of adoption of really good quality digital care planning solutions across the social care sector are great short-term priorities. NCF are focused on supporting our members and the wider social care sector to do these things, and working with organisations such as NHS, DHSC, PRSB etc to ensure that the goals we’re all working towards are common ones.

You can read NCF’s latest impact report here.

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