Published in Care Home Professional, The Journal of mHealth, The Care Home Environment, The Carer UK
By Jonathan Papworth, Co-founder and director of Person Centred Software
The latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that an estimated 828,000 workers in the UK were affected by work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2019/20. By occupation, professional roles that are common across public service industries, such as health and social care, show higher levels of stress compared to all jobs.
Furthermore, the main work factors cited by respondents as causing work-related stress, depression or anxiety were workload pressures including tight deadlines, too much responsibility, and a lack of managerial support.
Add to this the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the health and social care sectors immeasurably, and these enhanced stress triggers among workers have manifested themselves into poor, and in some cases severe, mental health problems.
According to The Health Foundation, as we start to take stock of the unprecedented ramifications of the pandemic and make the initial steps towards recovery, evidence is emerging about the detrimental mental health impacts on UK health and social care staff; an estimated 3 million-strong workforce. For instance, half of the 1,000 care workers surveyed across the UK by IPPR/YouGov in April reported that their mental health had deteriorated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research showed those aged between 18 to 34 years were hardest hit, with 71 per cent reporting a worsening in their mental health.
Put simply, stress is one of the most detrimental impacts in health and social care today. Looking at social care, in particular, care providers are finding themselves under immense pressure. They need to do a lot more than they would normally, to deliver the same quality of care as pre-pandemic. On top of this, they don’t have the luxury of having any extra time, with the build-up of workload being a key stress trigger for staff.
Infection control precautions, such as wiping down surfaces and engaging with families who can’t see their loved ones remotely, are just a few of the time-consuming tasks social care workers have had to add to their already heavy workloads over the past year or so. Then there are the residents who are isolating and in need of more time and care than those who aren’t. On top of everything else, care providers have had to complete new data entry forms for the government, such as the capacity tracker. This intense time pressure doesn’t even take into account the staff who have had to take on the workload of fellow colleagues who have had to isolate themselves.
These unhealthy and unsustainable levels of stress have made staff wellness a key focus in 2021. Care providers must do what they can to reduce the work burden on their staff without compromising the quality of care.
With April being Stress Awareness Month and staff wellness being more crucial than ever before, we wanted to give attention to the concerning aforementioned statistics and explore sustainable technological solutions that can help reduce them in the years ahead.
There’s already digital care technology out there, for example, that can save three days a month on administrative tasks. Some technology solutions are well-documented for their ability to reduce stress amongst staff by simplifying tasks and freeing up more time to provide direct care to residents, whilst enhancing communication and facilitating wider teamwork. Certain technologies on the market also offer more openness and transparency. For instance, the need for video calling between family and residents has been paramount throughout the pandemic, and care technology has enabled that social interaction, thereby reducing the burden of staff having to constantly answer phone calls from concerned family members.
Staff wellness is important at all times, but especially when people are under stress, and this is where technology can make an instrumental difference. Our Mobile Care Monitoring system, for instance, allows staff to seamlessly plan, record and monitor the care of residents digitally in real-time.
The mobile digital care system helps to reduce the time it would take to physically transcribe care notes as staff can record information at the point of care, while also mitigating the risk of errors through innovative icon-driven tools. In addition, the risk of losing information is eliminated as all data is recorded in one central portal, which can be viewed anytime by anyone with access.
Some recent case studies on care homes utilising digital care technology include Wren Hall, a specialist dementia care nursing home in Nottinghamshire. Its owner, Anita Astle, believes the implementation of digital care technology has enabled her staff to spend more time focusing on caring for the people they are there to support. “In a world where time is so precious, the technology has proved to be a powerful tool,” she said during a recent webinar looking at the future of care homes.
During the same webinar, Andrew and Carole Geach, CEOs of Shedfield Lodge, a residential care home near Southampton, believed digital care technology was key to ensuring a healthy and safe working environment for staff. The couple said: “It’s about educating the staff on what you’re implementing and how it’s going to be of better use to them. We want to allow them to spend more time with the residents, which predominantly is what it’s all about.”
As we head further into 2021 and further out of the pandemic, care providers across the health and social care sectors must look towards technology to empower staff to utilise their time efficiently and productively. At present, we find ourselves in a privileged position, whereby we have care technology at our disposal that can significantly aid the quality of care for residents while reducing stress among staff.
Ultimately, if we are to reduce workplace stress and make the industry a healthier, happier place to work, then the adoption of technology is a step in the right direction to achieving such a utopia.