Powys looks to replace problematic social care computer system

Councillor Rachel Powell
Councillor Rachel Powell

Staff have said that issues with specialised computer software has been a reason to quit Powys County Council.

At a meeting of Powys County Council’s cabinet on Friday, March 11 a proposal to leave Welsh Community Care Information System (WCCIS) and explore using other software was discussed by councillors.

WCCIS is multimillion pound IT investment supplied by the Welsh Government to fully integrate health and social care in Wales.

It is supposed to mean that community nurses, mental health teams, social workers and therapists can share electronic records so that they know where a patient is with their treatment.

Head of digital services, Diane Reynolds explained that in April 2016, Powys joined 15 other local authorities and two health boards in using WCCIS.

This cost £604,000 and the annual costs are £91,000.

Ms Reynolds: “The system has continued to have excessive down time and issues of accessibility it remains a high risk for the authority impacting on services to discharge their duties.”

Despite discussions with the provider Ms Reynolds said that improvements of reliability had not been seen.

She added that last year an independent review was commissioned which recommended that Powys look for a replacement system.

Head of legal and democratic services, Clive Pinney explained that Bridgend County Borough Council are the main WCCIS contract holder.

To leave the contract, Powys would have to do it by “fault” and explain what the issues had been as well as what work to try and correct them had been,

Mr Pinney said: “There have been issues for a number of years, and it’s no better than it was two years ago.”

Chairman of the Health and Care scrutiny committee, Councillor Amanda Jenner had concerns that the council could get into a protracted legal battle to leave the WCCIS contract even if it has a “clear case.”

Councillor Jenner said: “My advice is to weigh up the potential legal costs and getting a system completely ready by the end of March 2023 to avoid all that.

“I want to highlight there’s only a year left in the contract.”

Mr Pinney pointed out that there was potential for the contract to be extended for another four years and if this happened, Powys would also be part of the extension, unless they “terminate by fault.”

Children’s Social Services portfolio holder Councillor Rachel Powell said: “We’ve had social workers leave because of it, I’m relieved we’ve got to the stage where we’re looking for a different approach.

“We need to look at all options.”

Adult social care Councillor Myfanwy Alexander said: “This is more than just escaping a bad system this is about us creating a good system for the future with our service users at its heart."

Councillors voted unanimously to:

Note the requirement for a replacement.

To allow digital transformation to find an effective replacement system for WCCIS.

And to set aside £1.2million in 2023/24 for further investigation.

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