We recently completed a discovery – a period of research – to understand what social care information we should feature on NHS Choices, and how we can make that information easy for people to find and use.

In this post you can find out a little bit more, download pretty much everything we learned, and discover what’s next for social care information on NHS Choices.

For more detail about the discovery, please see Social care information on NHS.UK from December 2017 and NHS Choices social care discovery – an update from March 2018.

User needs

We spoke to people who use services and their carers, as well as health and social care professionals. All in all, we conducted interviews with 51 people across the country. Each person’s story was unique to them, but we found that some of the most common, most pressing things that people need are:

  • Help navigating the complex landscape of social care, so they get the care and support they need.
  • Recommendations about steps to take and services to consider.
  • Easy-to-understand information that can be shared between people who use services and their personal network of carers and family members.
  • Information about key topics such as funding, assessments, NHS Continuing Healthcare and intermediate care.
  • Information and advice that is sensitive to their emotional state – often at a point of crisis.

Business needs

We also reviewed law, policy, guidance and existing social care research to understand the broader policy environment and priorities for social care (AKA ‘business needs’). The main ones were:

  • Prevent, reduce or delay people’s need for care and support in the first place.
  • Encourage more self-care.
  • Encourage people to think about and plan for future care needs and funding sooner.
  • Save money by reducing duplication, making processes more efficient and encouraging channel shift from phone to online, especially for basic information.
  • Encourage people to consider a broader range of care and support options, not just homecare and care homes.

There are many more user needs and business needs captured in the discovery findings.

Retiring the current social care service directory

Overall, we found little user need for the directory of social care services currently on NHS Choices. It’s not particularly well-used and we didn’t find much evidence of need for the product in its current state. There are around 30 different national directories of social care services and each local council maintains their own as well. Given all this, it would not be a good use of the public pound to invest in making our directory better.

We also believe that local councils are best placed to understand the full range of regulated and unregulated services in their areas, so we intend to replace our directory with a system of improved signposting to local directories, instead of duplicating information.

None of this will happen overnight, and we will give plenty of warning before our directory is taken down.

Building a care and support navigator tool

Remember user needs 1 and 2 in the list above? We’re going to prototype something that helps with those (and with some other needs as well).

The social care navigator will ask people a few questions about their situation then give them recommendations about what they should do, any supporting information they need and clear links to where they can get started. Instead of presenting them with every possible option, it will lay out the steps they need to take now and the things they can do afterwards. It will make the social care system more manageable and it will support people who need services and their families to interact with the system.

Improving the care and support guide

We have also started to design and test some improvements to the care and support guide on NHS Choices. We know that the current guide is difficult to navigate and that the information within it could be easier to understand. Starting with key topics such as funding, assessments, NHS Continuing Healthcare and intermediate care, we aim to create the most trusted, most used, most usable guide to social care for older people in England.

What happens next?

We will be designing and testing the prototype navigator tool and the improvements to the guide between April and June. If our prototypes seem to be doing the job we’ll get them onto beta.nhs.uk as soon as possible so that we can test them in public. And if they’re successful there, then we’ll look at how to take them forward onto the live site. If you would like to receive occasional emails about this work and how it’s progressing please email james.higgott@nhs.net.

Download our discovery findings

Please note that these are all working documents rather than highly polished outputs. We’re sharing them because we think they might be useful to anyone in the NHS or local government looking at a similar area. We don’t want our research to sit in a dusty drawer – feel free to use it however you like and let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Download the main report (.pdf)
Download the main report and related documents (.zip )

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