Norfolk is one of the largest Local Authorities in the UK, with around 400 care home providers and a high volume of service users requiring appropriate placements. Along with many other Authorities, Norfolk faces the challenge of delivering high quality care procurement services, while delivering best value for money.
Senior Project Manager Andrew Pettitt explains. “We have an exceptionally extensive list of providers, so that when we get a request for a care package, our task is to work through the list, phoning providers until we identify a care home with availability and, where appropriate, specific facilities or services – such as specialist dementia care or hoists – in the requisite location
“Clearly, this is an incredibly time intensive process and not a level playing field for every provider, as not every home with availability can be contacted.”
Norfolk’s Broker Team Business Lead Mark Feeley agrees, describing the previous system as ‘slow and laborious and lacking real transparency.’
E-brokerage addresses these challenges by advertising care packages to all providers by email. Those interested may view the requirements online and respond accordingly, ensuring all providers have equal access to commissioners’ requirements in an efficient, timely and cost-effective process.
Having identified OCC’s e-brokerage system as a potential solution for Norfolk, the Local Authority , team faced the further challenge of implementation, says Andrew Pettitt.
“We already had an established relationship with OCC, so when they recommended Affinity Works to help us get the project off the ground, rather than simply receive the product and be left alone to make it work, we appointed Affinity Works as our implementation partner and they helped us through.”
The project was focused on adult residential and nursing care. Critical to its success, according to Richard Wellings, Director at Affinity Works, was securing both staff and provider engagement with the new e-brokerage system from the outset, so that explaining how the new process would work and encouraging providers to register was key.
Initial configuration was a major part of the task, Richard says. “Lots of planning is required to put together a good package. We spent a great deal of time working alongside Procurement on a rich set of configuration requirements and with providers in collecting, processing and then loading data for every one of the 400 providers onto the new e-brokerage system. In consultation with the Broker team, we designed a comprehensive catalogue of requirements and included the facility for Procurement to see the status of all providers.”
Preparing for Go Live
This was a complex project from stakeholder point of view, requiring checks to be put in place to ensure all aspects were ‘joined up’. This involved fortnightly stakeholder collaboration and weekly phone calls with Affinity Works throughout the process, says Andrew Pettitt.
Prior to Go Live in October last year, the project team hosted a dozen road shows across the county over two weeks, where providers were invited to see how the system works and obtain individual login IDs.
“Communicating with providers and commissioners was vital,” states Mark Feeley. “We contacted every home, gathered all the relevant information (which generated 60 odd attributes for each home), populated a spreadsheet, highlighted USPs such as dementia care, hoists and so forth. Affinity Works then processed and loaded everything to our e-brokerage system and we also added it to our public facing Marketplace Directory, so any service user can access all information.
After that, we held the roadshows, which all worked well. Finally, we tested the system, invited feedback and contacted those providers who hadn’t engaged to investigate any problems.”
He adds, “the beauty of the system is its simplicity – it’s really easy to use; information can be input and sent quickly, and providers can respond equally quickly to social workers’ requests, driving out previous inefficiencies.”
- INCREASED EFFICIENCY
Mark Feeley confirms that providers are responding well to the new system, with an average of 30 responses to care packages advertised. Where the time taken to secure 30 responses would previously have been hours if not days, now reaching out to all providers across the county takes just minutes. By delivering huge time savings, the e-brokerage system has led to increased efficiencies for the Local Authority and better engagement with providers.
- FAIRER ACCESS TO OPPORTUNITY
Mark says homes previously not used, are now engaging, bringing an additional set of respondents into the process, who may not have been the natural ‘go to’ providers before. This wider reach has resulted in fairer access for providers, more choice for commissioners and better visibility of available capacity for the Brokerage team.
- IMPROVED RESPONSE & QUALITY OF SERVICE
Rather than having to take a phone call during busy working hours, providers can respond to e-brokerage requests in their own time, which means opportunities are not missed and response rates are improved. In turn this improves the quality of service provided to end users.
- BETTER INTELLIGENCE
The system is designed to provide powerful management information for commissioners that was previously not available to them – both on a global basis across the entire system and at a granular level for individual homes.
In particular, it can provide the procurement team with rich intelligence across a range of pre-set criteria, from response rates to highlighting shortfalls in service provision, allowing the e-brokerage and wider procurement service to be monitored and continuously fine-tuned.
What our customer says…
“Affinity Works provided an absolutely first-class level of support and implementation consultancy; they brought experience to bear from other implementations and guided us in getting the very best from OCC’s e-brokerage system. Affinity Works were diligent, thorough and thoughtful, heading off potential issues before they arose.
The system is working well so far, with providers responding and placements being made. It also provides rich intelligence, so that we can analyse responses, see what was awarded to whom and understand why a package was or was not awarded to a particular provider. All this helps us improve our commissioning process going forward.
Residential care is the most challenging area for us. The next phase will be to tackle care support at home. We will be engaging with Affinity Works again for this project – and that’s the most ringing endorsement possible, indicating our confidence and trust in the Affinity Works team.”
Andrew Pettitt, Senior Project Manager at Norfolk County Council
“Affinity Works played a key role in all stakeholder group meetings and attracted absolutely glowing references; without them I believe we would have really struggled.
“Senior level directors like Richard Wellings and Tom Knight, who know the e-brokerage system inside out, invested a great deal of time with us. They joined project calls on a weekly basis and helped the team build the right configuration to engage stakeholders and encourage involvement.
“The system is working really well, and the time, resources and value delivered by Affinity Works in supporting us with its implementation were, without a shadow of a doubt, well worth the cost.
“We have now bought Affinity Works’ Business as Usual (BAU) support package, which demonstrates that we recognize the value they bring. We trust them to help us move forward smoothly and support us on forthcoming projects. Arguably we could do everything ourselves, but why would we – it will be quicker and more thorough if it’s done by Affinity Works; they will help deliver what we need and not charge the earth, so it’s a simple decision for us.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Affinity Works, their knowledge is immense, their desire to help is unbounded and their service is fantastic value for money.”
Mark Feeley, Business Lead Broker Team, Norfolk County Council