In recognition of the challenges exacerbated by COVID-19, the government has introduced new legislation, pledging an additional £36 billion investment to help tackle issues faced by an already stretched social care sector.
This shift to reform the health and social care sector will fundamentally alter how support is commissioned/delivered in the long term as we move towards Integrated Care Systems. Coupled with an ageing population and an increase in people seeking funded support, we expect that changes to quality criteria, service requirements, and the way tenders are assessed will shortly follow.
It is yet to be announced how this may impact the tendering process for care contracts. However, based on our extensive experience of tendering across the health and social care sector, we have speculated on the following changes.
A need to reform health and social care’s image, leading to an increased focus on quality
In recent years the care sector has been under scrutiny due to ongoing failures to protect service users, with well-known cases of documented/systematic failings reported at Winterbourne View, Whorlton Hall, and Yew Trees Hospital. As such, we may experience a shift to more quality-driven questioning as local authorities aim to improve what has previously been a negative reputation. Closer analysis of quality assurance systems, accreditations and processes is likely, and we anticipate more extensive questions – carrying higher weightings – with respect to:
- Quality assurance processes including how this is embedded in training and monitored through service delivery.
- Recruiting competent staff, values-based recruitment and retention.
- Maintaining/improving providers’ CQC ratings.
- Collaborative working with community partners to drive continuous improvement and embed best practice.
This increased scrutiny, and move towards more extensive, inherent joint working, may require a shift in how providers present their service delivery models to reflect a genuine partnership approach.
Increased referrals leading to heightened demand
Previously, people were required to pay for their care needs in full up to the value of £23,250. For many, this barred/deterred them from seeking support. However, with the government pledging to make an additional £12 billion per year available, it is anticipated that the needs for social care will grow. As such, we anticipate an increase in the numbers of tenders/number of providers offered places on frameworks and DPSs to meet demand. Furthermore, evaluation criteria around service capacity, recruitment/retention, contingency, and challenges faced by providers may become more prevalent as local authorities scrutinise providers’ ability and, by extension, their capacity to meet demand in a sector that is already facing staff shortages.
It is therefore important that care providers can ‘sell themselves positively’: explain innovative methods of recruitment, talk about pilot schemes, and outline how challenges have been overcome and learned from, including examples where appropriate as evidence.
Linked closely to the prior point, it is likely that, in anticipation of increased referrals (and with an ageing population), councils will begin piloting and establishing more prevention-based services, such as short breaks, early intervention services, unpaid carer support services and community-based care to alleviate pressures on the NHS and community and residential care. More broadly, we anticipate a great focus on prevention-based criteria across all services in general, including care at home, for example. As such, adopting an outcome-focussed, strength-based model of care early will enable you to provide case studies and evidence to support your bid when tendering for a contract.
More innovative care
The government will be under pressure to make increased funding stretch further, meet more people’s needs, and evidence enhanced efficiencies. We have seen in recent years a move towards ‘value for money’ and ‘reduced reliance on care’ based questioning, which, alongside supporting service users’ independence, also provides cost savings to local authorities. As such, we anticipate that a shift towards questions around innovative approaches to assistive technology, care delivery, and reduced reliance on paid support through the use /establishment of natural networks will become progressively more common.
It would therefore be beneficial as a care provider to begin thinking about how you can evidence this. Real-life examples demonstrating how the implementation of assistive technology has improved an individual’s quality of life whilst also leading to cost savings are likely to appeal strongly to evaluators. Similarly, examples or experience of supporting individuals to access community networks and unpaid support will enhance the quality of your submission.
The above points are all speculative and based on our interpretation of how the social care funding may influence tendering. However, we have already seen a sustained movement towards person-centred, outcome-focussed, and reabling commissioning, and there is no sign these changes will slow down in the near future.
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