Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission.

So what do you think of when you look back at your school years?

Were they a time of opportunity, opening up new possibilities? Or were you miserable, counting down the days and wishing they were over? Or maybe, like most people there were good times and bad?

I have to say, I loved school. For me it was a liberating experience and I enjoyed learning. Somehow, I knew it was a passport to a different future beyond the town I grew up in. That town was Darlington and the school was Longfield Comprehensive which I attended from 11 to 16.

Don’t let me give you the impression it was a bed of roses — like everyone else I am sure, there are some memories I’d chose not to dwell on. Perhaps that explains why — despite everything the school did for me — I’ve hardly been back for nearly 35 years. That and my parents moved away so return visits to Darlington have been few and far between.


I was persuaded by friends I have kept in touch with (you may remember them from last year’s blog) to join them at the reunion organised by another former pupil. I am so glad I did — it was great fun, if a little surreal. There was a lot to catch up on — children, grandchildren, careers, globe-trotting. You name it, someone had done it.

A few of our old teachers returned too — it was lovely to meet my old French teacher who I credit with encouraging my attention to detail — something she often pointed out when I forgot in French spelling and grammar.

Learning about technology

As I was already in the north, I took the opportunity to visit Tunstall Healthcare (UK) Ltd based in Doncaster. The company offers a variety of technology-based services and products in the health and social care sector and I was responding to a long-standing invitation to discuss how their work could assist services to answer our five questions.

I saw some of their response and tele-healthcare services in action — good ways to support people to live safely in the community. In our wide-ranging discussion we touched on the different ways that technology could help improve services. Some of the examples we considered included:

  • Is the service safe? Technology can help with medication prompts and real-time records.
  • Is the service caring? Using technology may help to free up staff time to focus on the more person-centred aspects of care and support.
  • Is the service effective? Using Wi-Fi enabled apps to enjoy the things that matter to them can help people using services to live the meaningful, fulfilling lives they have every right to expect.
  • Is the service responsive? Monitoring changes in conditions to inform care plan updates can be made easier with technology.
  • Is the service well-led? Using innovative and creative technology solutions to support improvement is one way that a service can demonstrate good leadership.

A few hours discussion could only scratch the service of possibilities and there is a lot more information available on the internet to help people using services, staff and providers explore what might be possible. As a starter for ten you can take a look at:

Happy hunting!


As I looked round my old school, the huge shift in the use of technology in education over the last 35 years was strikingly evident. We have no idea what may lie ahead in technology advances, but I hope that we will be able to harness some of that energy and enthusiasm to improve lives for people using social care services. Technology will never replace the need for personal relationships, hands-on care and the impact of a warm smile or kind word, but if it can be used to make those things easier to do, that would be great.

Originally published at

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