Robots designed to help carers lift people without the need for extra assistance are among the innovations showcased in an initiative to support local authorities using technology to deliver social care.

The innovations were discovered through the NHS Digital Social Care Digital Innovation Programme and the Social Care Digital Innovation Accelerators programmes, which some 69 local authorities took part in.

The programmes, run as part of NHS Digital’s five-year Social Care Programme and in collaboration with the Local Government Association, have now closed with information about the innovations available online. The hope is that more local authorities may adopt the new technologies to help improve adult social care.

Computer controlled robots – or ‘cobots’ – were trialled in the Isle of Wight and Hampshire to help carers lift people without assistance.

The robots are worn around the waist and lower back to help support the lifting, holding and moving of people. Not only do they help to reduce the risk of injury and minimise fatigue for carers, but they are also reduce the need for two carers to work together, a big help in reducing infection risks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Social Care Digital Innovation Programme provided more than £1m in funding to respond to challenges faced in the adult social care sector, while the Social Care Digital Innovation Accelerator Programme invested more than £470,000 in collaborative projects.

In total 49 innovative projects were developed by 69 local authorities, which are now being showcased as examples of best practice. Local authorities in Essex and Hampshire tested everyday consumer technologies – such as tablets and voice-activated speakers – to help people feel secure and stay connected during lockdown.

Derbyshire County Council carried out equipment and care assessments via phone and video, while in Kirklees, people receiving long-term care could access care assessments and book appointments online.

James Palmer, programme head of the Social Care Programme at NHS Digital, said: “Digital technology can make a huge difference to people’s lives and the projects funded through these programmes have improved social care as well as empowered people by giving them more control over their own wellbeing.

“Front line staff have worked incredibly hard to make these programmes successful and we now want to ensure these fantastic innovations can be adopted by more social care providers, local authorities and charities so that as many people as possible can experience the benefits they bring.”

You can see the ‘cobots’ in action below: