Leaps and bounds: a review of 2023 and predictions for 2024

Leaps and bounds: a review of 2023 and predictions for 2024

Michelle Corrigan, Programme Director of Better Security, Better Care, reflects on major achievements in 2023, and predicts emerging issues for 2024.

You know the way change happens – sometimes slowly and almost imperceptibly, other times in leaps and bounds. Well, 2023 was definitely a year of leaping and bounding for the Better Security, Better Care programme.

It’s not just that a record-breaking 17,958 services currently comply with the Data Security and Protection Toolkit – a massive 20 per cent more than December 2022. That’s a valuable symbol of change of course, but there’s been a leap in awareness of how critical data sharing – and therefore data security – is to improving and integrating health and care. Every event, every discussion I’ve heard over this last year points to that, and now it’s really resonating with individual care services and managers.

There is greater joined-up thinking about digital technology and data: from the Digitising Social Care Programme providing funding to care providers, to the Care Quality Commission’s explicit reference to cyber security and the DSPT within their new Single Assessment Framework.

We are working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England’s Joint Cyber Unit on cyber incident response plans.  As you can imagine it is complex, but by participating in a major incident exercise, we’ve been identifying gaps and opportunities. More news on that story next year.

At a local level too, we’ve seen real change. Our 28 support organisations across the country have increased their direct support to smaller care providers who often struggle to get to grips with data protection. It’s intensive, but it has long-term benefits as data protection gets built into normal practice. Our teams are bringing together key local stakeholders to consider the opportunities and risks coming down the line and how they can work together. For example, at the first regional stakeholder summit in North East and Yorkshire, colleagues tested a cyber attack simulation game which could be made available to the sector.

And as a programme we’re broadening our focus from completing the DSPT, to implementing the principles behind it.  For example, we know that many care providers struggle to find affordable, relevant data protection training for their staff. So we invested in the creation of an elearning course specifically aimed at adult social care providers and covering all settings and job roles. We’re particularly proud of this achievement and encourage all organisations to access it.

And we’ve had over 3,500 bookings across 30 national webinars – including new sessions on data protection for new services, business continuity planning and data protection, and emerging cyber security issues.

So what are our predictions for 2024?

Expect to see some significant national announcements including measures to streamline data collection through the Minimum Operational Dataset and the Minimum Reporting Dataset . Data collection will be increasingly streamlined through digital social care records to reduce burdens on providers.

We will also see the findings from the Adult Social Care Technology Fund which aims to implement and evaluate a range of care technologies used in adult social care.  We will be keeping a look out for how data from these technologies can be safely used to support client care.

Inevitably cyber threats will continue to loom large with both national and international criminals seeking to take advantage of any weaknesses they can find. Even if care services are not the primary target, they can get dragged in. We will continue to work with central and local government, tech suppliers, NHS and social care leaders to push for better safeguards and support for care providers to reduce and manage the impact of attacks. And we will gear up our campaign to encourage care providers to really consider cyber security as part of their business continuity plans.

The power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will continue to grow. We are seeing some early adoption of AI within the care sector, but more work will be done throughout 2024 to support understanding, benefits, risks and implications for our sector and the people we support.

As the Better Security, Better Care programme continues to mature, we will be using our reach and knowledge to identify future issues and solutions around digital and data developments. For example, we will share insights from our Action Research projects on new approaches to cyber and data security and our quick review of cyber attacks in not-for-profit organisations. We will also work with services that provide advice to people choosing care: what should they be asking about how their personal data is managed?

There is, of course, a national election looming. Social care is likely to feature in all parties’ manifestos – but will they recognise the importance of investing in social care tech and data?

One thing we know for sure. Care providers will, unfortunately, continue to face real funding and staffing pressures.  While digital technology cannot solve all the challenges our sector faces, it can take at least some of the strain.

Whatever happens, the Digital Care Hub and Better Security, Better Care will be here to support and advocate for our sector.

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas, and a productive 2024.

Photo by Kid Circus on Unsplash




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