“The tracker has been very useful for us. We can monitor our residents who have symptoms of COVID-19, get the advice and support we need to care for them and connect with the NHS system.”

Chris Wright, Senior Carer, Charnley House Care Home, Tameside

UK-first digital tool helps care homes track COVID-19

Challenge / problem identified

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic it became apparent that care homes urgently required support to provide proactive care for their residents.

Older people are at higher risk of developing severe and life-threatening consequences of coronavirus and it was vital those caring for people within care homes were able to spot signs of COVID-19 and take swift action.

There was also a need for GPs and local health systems to identify those people within the care homes in their communities who are in need of advanced care planning and provide a real-time dashboard of the status of patients.

Actions taken

Health Innovation Manchester (HInM) worked with tech company Safe Steps to develop a UK-first digital tool to help care homes track COVID-19 and coordinate care with GP practices, social care and hospitals to optimally support vulnerable residents.

The platform allows care homes staff to input information about residents’ COVID-19 related symptoms into a tracker, which can be shared directly with the resident’s GP and NHS community response team to ensure that a swift assessment and response can be put in place.

It also means that the NHS can more closely monitor how care homes are doing across the locality more easily thanks to a visual dashboard that displays the information at an aggregate level. It enables clinicians to make the right strategic decision at pace and ensure the best care for those vulnerable patients.

The project is a partnership with HInM, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, Tameside Council, local GPs and Safe Steps.

As well as developing the solution, HInM is also undertaking an evaluation to measure impact as the tool is rolled out to other localities in Greater Manchester.

Impacts / outcomes

Through the pilot with Tameside and Glossop, health and care teams were able to proactively support the health of more than 1,320 residents across 40 care homes.

This has resulted in:

  • 62,631 assessments, including 971 residents assessed in a single day in August
  • 80 electronic devices distributed and in use within care homes to support assessments.

Following the success of the pilot, the COVID-19 tracker is now being deployed in two further localities. HInM  has also received commitment to the project from a further two localities and engagement from a further four.

“Clinical teams are now using the dashboard to optimally support care homes and their residents during the pandemic. The tracker will streamline and speed-up this data collection – making it possible to access a real-time dashboard which will help us make the right strategic decisions at pace.”

Prof Martin J Vernon, Consultant Geriatrician and Clinical Director at Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS FT

Lessons learned

Implementing a digital programme within care homes has highlighted an acute lack of digital infrastructure compared to elsewhere within the health and care system, including access to WiFi and equipment such as computers or other devices. This is a barrier to implementing highly digitally-enabled programmes of work if there is not sufficient funding or resources to acquire the vital technology needed.

There is still more work to be done within some localities in order to support integration and closer working relationships between health and care organisations. This needs to be considered when embarking on programmes similar to the COVID-19 care homes project.

Future plans / next steps

HInM is supporting the wider implementation of the COVID-19 tracker across more localities in Greater Manchester, with potential for wider spread to each of the 11,109 care homes and their 418,000 residents.

Additionally, discussions have taken place with NHS England with a view to using the HInM model for implementation of the digital solution into other areas of the country. HInM have been developing good practice guidelines, including standard operating procedures, training materials, and estimates for resource allocation.

The NIHR Applied Research Centre (ARC) Greater Manchester is also conducting a service evaluation, and a research programme is in place to explore the impacts and benefits of the tracker.

“GPs can easily identify those patients who need advanced care planning by picking up signs of deterioration as soon as they start to happen. This will act as an invaluable decision support tool around intervention from primary care.”

Dr Saif Ahmed, GP and Clinical Lead