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Time to move past paper based workbooks in Social Care?

Paper is durable. It is easy to store and easy to retrieve, and though many industries have radically reduced their reliance on paper over the last decade, and there is a strong pull towards paperless solutions in Health and Social Care, we understand that paper will be with us for a long time.

Why move past paper?

If paper is so enduring, why move past paper? We believe the answer is a combination of ‘pull’ and ‘push’ factors. Taken together, we recognise that moving past paper provides a positive step forward for the sector.

Push factors

The sector operates within society at large, and society is reducing its reliance on paper. Take the rapidly expanding market in ebooks as an example, or the rise of internet banking. Take the declining market in printed holiday snaps as another example and the corresponding rise in digital storage and display devices, including tablet computers and personal cloud storage solutions.

These factors provide a background push for the sector, but on their own they are not reason enough to move past paper. There are other ‘push’ factors including guidance on security and data protection that affects everyone across all sectors, and specific legislation which provides unequivocal statements on new ways of working:

In a shared statement regarding the Care Certificate and training providers issued by Skills for Health, Skills for Care and Health Education England, these organisations make it clear that: “It is not possible to achieve the Care Certificate through completion of e-learning or completing a workbook alone.”

The recommendations for CQC providers, from Skills for Care, ‘Inducting care workers’ say: “The assessment of a new care worker’s induction programme cannot be undertaken by an external learning provider, via e-learning or through simply reviewing a completed workbook.”

Both statements are strong evidence that the established practice of viewing content and then testing short-term recall is simply not enough. It cannot provide high quality evidence of impact on competence or on safety to practice. These quality indicators can only be evidenced through observation of a care worker’s practice – which is why our solutions are not designed to deliver content alone, but to provide a method to measure the impact and effectiveness of that content in the only place it matters: in staff practice.

Pull factors

We recognise that there are many and varied reasons to move past paper, not least because of the ubiquity of internet connected electronic devices; the security benefits of storing evidence electronically in ISO27001 accredited data centres; the ability to share information and evidence securely between manager and care worker across physical space and separate shifts; the time savings made through holistic observations, that is: observing practice once and applying it to multiple, relevant Care Certificate outcomes or in building an automated evidence portfolio of the competence and safety to practice of your entire staff when it comes to inspection; the benefits of unifying disparate evidence and supervision data; and the ability to provide real, rich evidence of continuous competence and knowledge through observed practice and not simply by testing staff recall in the minutes after they have engaged with learning material.

Paper has its place

We are not predicting the end of paper, nor would we want to. We recognise the strengths and the weaknesses of paper. Where there are weaknesses our job is to provide better, more robust solutions which increase the positive impact on learning and on outcomes for patients and recipients of care, since these are the people to whom we are all ultimately responsible.


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