In response to the coronavirus outbreak and in a bid to support social care providers with staffing, the National Care Force has been launched.
What is the National Care Force?
The National Care Force is a free online service that has been set up by the health technology firm “Florence”. The service works by enabling clinical volunteers such as doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, support workers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists to state their availability for shifts in the social care sector. Social care providers directly post the shifts that they require staff for onto the online platform.
With the government announcing that up to one-fifth of the UK workforce could be off sick at the same time due to the virus, staff shortages for social care providers are inevitable and a significant concern for providers. This is particularly concerning at a time where the adult health and social care sector is already stretched without the pressures that a global pandemic is bringing worldwide.
How can it help health and social care providers?
It can help health and social care providers as the National Care Force requires clinical volunteers to enter information for compliance purposes namely: criminal record information, qualifications, skills, areas of specialism and relevant experience. Social care providers are required to enter information about their care setting and the skills they require. The software matches up the needs of the provider with the clinical volunteers available and suggests shifts for the clinical volunteers to take based on their own skills, experiences and clinical qualifications.
The National Care Force also enables non-clinical volunteers to offer their time to help with picking up shopping for those who are self-isolating and providing cleaning or laundry services, for example. This is particularly relevant for shortages in home care and domiciliary care settings.
The scheme has been endorsed by the National Care Forum and Care England and has been developed by Florence, headed up by Dr Charles Armitage and Dan Blake, a former NHS Doctor and British Army officer. The National Care Force can be accessed for free here.
How does the National Care Force support the government’s key values?
After the government has yesterday announced the ethical framework for adult social care, the National Care Force initiative goes towards supporting the government’s key values and principles recommended for providers responding to the coronavirus outbreak. These values include principles like respect; flexibility and community.
Whilst the National Care Force initiative seeks to provide much needed assistance to staffing during this outbreak, there are some uncertainties as to regulatory compliance. In respect of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014, providers are of course mindful of the Regulation 19 and Schedule 3 requirements regarding fit and proper persons employed. The National Care Force states that once clinical volunteers have entered their qualifications and passed “compliance screening” they will be eligible for shifts. It is currently unclear whether providers are required to undertake independent checks in addition to the compliance screening as part of the software. CQC’s recent guidance on the COVID-19 outbreak included advising providers “to use [their] discretion and act in the best way [they] see fit.”