Digital Care Homes

Interviewee: Katie Dowson (Place and CCG Digital Director – Doncaster CCG)

Before COVID-19, all care homes had some technology, but it was mostly PCs in the management office which would not be accessible to most staff. If a care home did have laptops, they didn’t have cameras and were again not accessible for staff.

In April 2020, video consultations started to be significantly increased in primary care. This meant there was a need for care homes to have the necessary technology to enable this and to prevent staff from using their own personal devices to facilitate this.


The digital strategy for Doncaster CCG was approved at the beginning of March 2020. COVID-19 then accelerated the transformations in this strategy, which meant that they were able to achieve things in five months which were planned to be completed in the next few years. In April 2020, the CCG Digital Director took responsibility for delivering technology in care homes.

The CCG conducted an initial survey to understand what digital capacity and capabilities care homes had, which received a 94% response rate. They found that most care homes had a Wi-Fi connection but, in the majority of homes, it was intermittent and not great.

The CCG introduced tablets into care homes to support digital MDTs and the general needs of care homes during COVID-19. Kits were going to be provided nationally but it was unclear when this would be provided, so the CCG took the decision to provide devices to their care homes themselves.

They provided care homes with an allocation of iPads based on size and occupancy and used RDASH nurses who have relationships with the care homes to help distribute the iPads, run through the agreements and how to use the technology. The iPads were configured with apps and bookmarked websites which partners in the place felt would benefit care homes.


Successes came about because the team took the time to understand what the needs of the CCG and other partners would be for the technology to ensure it was configured in a way that would be used by the care homes.

Care homes now know that they have a named contact, to talk through challenges and that they will be listened to when they call. This meant that care homes were able to be very adaptable so if something didn’t work, they looked at what else could be done.

Overall, the system worked well during this period to work quickly and to provide a consistent approach in all care homes within Doncaster.

Next Steps

They have now an ask from care homes for additional apps and for care home systems to be synced onto the iPads. The care homes now see this can be transformational and would like to be involved. The CCG want care homes to take the lead and drive the MDTs.

The CCG is working to ensure digital technology will be part of the norm in the future. There are a lot of opportunities to continue working together, such as shared care plans and the sharing of templates across social, mental health community and primary care. They want to look at how they improve information sharing, especially what the key data is, what the right platform to use is, how to use Teams appropriately and safely.

PCN specifications for care homes need to be taken into consideration and there is now a need to develop a governance model to ensure this work is continued.

The CCG is using the feedback from locality meetings to build a picture around where training is needed or what the gaps are. It is likely that they will need to go and spend time with people for further training needs.

Key Learning Points

  • The group were adaptive to needs and were quick to learn. For example, when they realised the Outlook App didn’t work with multiple NHS Mail addresses, they rectified the issue by removing the app and bookmarking the website to access mail that way. Furthermore, when NHS Mail was rolled out pre-covid, it didn’t land well in care homes. Therefore, they were able to use this as a ‘hook’ to get them engaged, because there was such a need to share information, use MS Teams and provide care homes access to professionals from different settings.
  • Staff had the opportunity to learn from other organisations and teams. This was a change because systems were more siloed before, and having access to Teams has helped the team work together.
  • A key takeaway tip is to look at what national objectives are, how they reflect what you want to do locally and to understand how to tap into this to achieve what you want. It is also important to involve the right stakeholders in order to ensure you get the impact you want.
  • Other organisations should try to make configuration as simple as possible in order to align with care home processes and to ensure it will not impact their work.


The CCG Comms team have done a case study with a care home manager, resident and their family to talk about their experiences. The resident would have been extremely lonely if they didn’t have access to iPads and their overall experience was positive.

The PCN director has said that he now has a different mindset to technology than he did previously and is now using technology more frequently.