Technologies for care – the imperative for upskilling carers

Waights, Verina; Bamidis, Panos and Almeida, Rosa (2018). Technologies for care – the imperative for upskilling carers. In: Northern Ireland Assembly Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series (KESS), Series 7. 2017-18.



Ageing populations, coupled with increasing retirement ages and lower ratios of workers to retirees, are negatively impacting health and social care resources (European Commission 2015). Currently, 11.8% of Northern Ireland (NI) residents are carers (Carers Trust 2017) but it is predicted that by 2025 the number of people aged over 65 will increase by 42% (NISRA 2015). These projections place increasing demands on carers, especially when considered within the ‘changing ethos of health care in NI’ towards a self-management model (NIPEC 2012). Carers increasingly use the internet for health information, yet worldwide many people lack health literacy and/or digital skills (International Longevity Centre 2012).

The EU-funded DISCOVER project involved over 650 carers, careworkers and stakeholders in co-designing and co-producing an online learning platform to enhance health literacy, and digital and caring skills and enable carers to share supportive practices to help reduce social isolation. Surveys and interviews revealed (Waights 2015a) that carers and care workers gained new digital skills (59% and 67%), and increased their knowledge of health conditions (83% and 71%) and technologies for care (89% and 76%). DISCOVER enhanced participants’ wellbeing and over 80% would recommend DISCOVER to others (Waights 2015a). Healthcare professionals reported that through DISCOVER carers and care workers participated more knowledgeably in consultations with care recipients.

Recommendations for policy makers and health care professionals include: ensuring seamless linking between care workers, carers, services, information and online communities via ‘one stop shops’, enabling care-home residents to use digital devices, reducing the mismatch between technologies and older people through co-production (Waights 2015b), accelerating the NHS app approval process and linkage of data from approved apps to clinicians and other health care professionals.

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