Safeguarding the future of workers in health and social care, which sustain over 350,000 jobs in Scotland alone, will rely on people being able to embrace “collaborative practice”; live and deal with technology disruption, and accept you never stop learning if you want to survive and thrive in the future.
Laura Chalmers, academic lead of health sciences at RGU, made a strong case for the end of “silo working” in healthcare, with a powerful message that to do the best for service users and the service itself, all the different professions must come together as one, working together to put an end to “tribalism” and to provide the best personal care possible in the 21st century.
At RGU, students from 11 different health and social work courses come together and work on a range of projects throughout their time at University. This way “students learn with, from and about each other”, enhancing empathy and other human skills such a problem solving, to create professionals who have more to offer than just traditional academic or technical skills.
But this is not the only change we are seeing.
From the new entrant end, we now have the Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Care which gives young people the opportunity to gain real workplace experience alongside a nationally recognised qualification whilst still at school. Universities are also now recognising that they need to be about more than just degrees, as they now offer modular learning, micro credentials, bootcamps, accredited placements etc, adapting to the changing needs of workers who are now required to be “lifelong learners”.
Employers also recognise they need to be able to train people in a flexible way so they can work in a flexible way. We were lucky enough to hear about the journey that Cornerstone is on to roll out self-managing teams. It is still a work in progress, but already there are promising signs of the local teams taking control of the services they provide, working across professional boundaries to join up the various “tribes” in the sector, and to then co-create solutions at a local scale. They have stripped out layers of management, introduced innovative training and coaching programmes, and they even changed their organisational chart to put the CEO at the bottom while putting its service users and staff at the top!
Technology is also starting to have a major impact on the health care sector in two key ways: the hardware which is being built into care environments, such as the sensors which spot unusual or unexpected patterns of behaviour, and the software systems which are allowing careers to interact with clients (and each other) in more cost-effective ways.
There is a real opportunity to deploy and use these technologies to save lives as well as money, and to connect people over great distances, which is very important for a place like Scotland. But as Andrew MacFarlane CEO of Carezapp rightly pointed out, we must educate people about what’s possible with the technology, and then train people to make it actually possible using the technology, but always with the end user in mind……the tech must only ever be a means to an end, not the other way round.
There is clearly a lot of work to be done to ensure that twenty years from now we have a sector which is providing care at the scale and quality which will be needed, but based on the discussion in the room at this event, there is a real energy and a genuine commitment to get there.
It is often said that the test of a nation’s character is the way it treats those in need, and I have no doubt there is a uniquely Scottish approach emerging to pass that test, and to meet those needs.
The videos of all the presentations from the workshops can be found below.