PickaShift set to digitally disrupt the NI Social Care Sector

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  • A recent economic study by the Northern Ireland Social Care Council showed that the overall contribution to the economy of the adult social care sector was over £800m - supporting employment for over 100,000 people here. Set against the context of such a small population these are significant numbers.

    It also shows that the reliance on the social care sector is high and that it is a lifeline for many. Not only do nursing and residential care homes provide much-needed care for individuals, it also assists the family members and friends of those who need support.

    The sector provides a range of jobs in local communities right across Northern Ireland and gives opportunity to those who work in the sector the chance to gain qualifications and skills which may not always be available in other sectors.

    The NI Social Care Council pointed out in their report that the impact of sustainable jobs and chance to upskill collectively in this sector helps to knit together the social fabric of our villages and towns across Northern Ireland.

    High staff costs

    A vibrant local residential and nursing home offer is important for local communities, but they are expensive to run due to the high input costs.

    These homes often face significant bills when it comes to filling shifts at short notice because of illness or holiday cover. The home does not have a choice – the shift must be filled to comply. It means they often must turn to expensive agencies.

    Ensuring that a home has the right staff in place at all times is often a difficult and expensive job for home owners. The care home sector is heavily regulated to ensure standards are met by health and social care providers so that qualified staff are on duty at all times. Failure to do so has consequences for the provider.

    Against the backdrop of pressured budgets, along with the strength of agencies in the market, homecare businesses are constantly looking for ways to cut costs and increase productivity.

    Technology provides solution

    In December, the Adult Social Care Report ‘Power to People: Proposals to reboot Adult Social Care and Support in NI’ detailed that the use of technology in the sector is underutilised but has enormous potential to assist in the provision of care here.

    As a response to this problem, we have developed a new app called PickaShift. Care homes using the app save in terms of costly administration, a bigger pool of certified available staff can benefit from more work and pay and the home owner can avoid paying the expensive agency. 

    Employers and staff both benefit, which ensures a consistent level of service provision for those in their care.

    The idea of the PickaShift app has been developed in direct response to the growing pressures that nursing and residential homes have found themselves in, due to a growing ageing population and the scarcity of supply of staff.

    By helping to cut down on the administration process, and providing an alternative to expensive agency fees, Pickashift is helping to address these issues while also delivering significant savings. In some cases, this could be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds for larger care home providers.

    How ‘PickaShift works: 

    • Phase One:  The home elects to use Pickashift and encourages its full and part-time nursing and care staff to download the app to their phones or mobile devices.
    • Phase Two: When a shift needs filled at short notice, and there is a potential of an agency fee being paid, the home administrator puts it on the Pickashift system. The app alerts staff that a shift needs filled and encourages them, through an auction process, to bid for that shift.  With this initial simple process the home has already cut down on costs in terms of telephone calls and time.
    • Phase Three: The auction process.  The homes aim is to avoid the expensive agency fee.  In order to do so it may be prepared to pay a little more to its staff.  Using its unique tool Pickashift invites full-time and part-time staff to participate in a time-bound upward auction which they can bid into.  If someone wants the shift they bid by simply hitting a button and accepting it.  If not, each subsequent step of the auction becomes increasingly attractive until someone finally bids.

    By Fearghal McKinney, Co-Founder, PickaShift

    By Fearghal McKinney, Co-Founder, PickaShift

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