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Care home crisis: new health-tech platform secures record funding to disrupt dysfunctional sector that costs UK taxpayers millions

Cera, a revolutionary health-tech start-up, today launches its on-demand social care platform after completing the largest-ever seed round in Europe’s healthcare history. Former and current heads of leading tech giants, international banks, the World Health Organisation, and award-winning food delivery service JustEat**, have pumped £1.3 million into the disruptive business, which aims to solve the country’s growing need for quick, reliable, and transparent social care.

The health-tech venture – which is the only service in the UK to guarantee a carer to a patient’s door or hospital bed within four hours – uses state-of-the-art technology to match each carer with the right person, at the right time, at the right place. Either the patient or family member can sign up online via Cera’s interactive website, to quickly book emergency or long-term care, as well as manage bookings and review care records. The online platform, which is easily accessible on all smart devices, also allows family members to receive updates and send messages to the carer on the go, to ensure complete peace of mind.

Co-founded by 28-year-old doctor Ben Maruthappu, who is ranked amongst the 100 most influential leaders in health tech, globally, and Marek Sacha, a 29-year-old internet entrepreneur with a background in artificial intelligence, Cera has been championed by industry pundits for “greatly improv[ing] care provision to patients”. Discussing Cera’s proposition, Lord Nigel Crisp, former CEO of the NHS, also emphasised the important role of technology moving forward, saying: “The internet is the organising principle of our time and health and care organisations must take advantage of it to improve their services.”

Cera has teamed up with smart home company Gideon, which also has partnerships with John Lewis and Microsoft, meaning Cera’s always-on care service in the home allows relatives to check up on their loved ones at a moment’s notice. A tech-enabled home specifically designed for elderly people means daily routines are simplified, allowing them to control appliances like lights and door locks with ease, giving them more autonomy.

The company is also trialling artificial intelligence (AI) technology to help predict bigger healthcare issues, based on carer feedback on whether a patient hasn’t been eating, has a fever, or isn’t walking normally, to pre-empt more serious illnesses. The idea is that patients’ GPs will soon have access to this information, so that they can proactively prescribe any necessary treatment, reducing emergency admissions to hospital.

The initiative is designed to relieve pressure from the NHS and tackle bed blocking, which costs the organisation approximately £820 million every year. At scale, it’s estimated that Cera will save the taxpayer up to £500 million a year, with around 100,000 fewer GP consultations.

The company is also actively speaking to councils and hospitals to discuss integrating its services into the public care system. Social care services currently cost local authorities an estimated £5 billion a year. Partnerships with Cera that see people stay in their own home, instead of moving to care homes, could be up to four-fold cheaper. With the closure of 1,500 care homes in the last six years, and one million people with care needs now receiving no formal or informal help in the UK, the new venture will provide a sustainable relief to an industry in desperate need of overhaul.

Poor quality care has crippled the industry’s ailing reputation, with most care agencies short-changing carers – often taking a 100 per cent mark-up. By automating back-office logistics, which removes the hefty and unnecessary cost of admin, Cera is able to compensate carers on average 50 per cent more than other care providers, whilst ensuring it only takes on highly experienced professionals. Ray Musmar, whose mother received palliative home care via Cera, said: “Sophia and Isabella, my mother’s carers, are absolute angels. If these are the sorts of people Cera has on their books, it’s amazing. We honestly couldn’t do it without them.”

Ben Maruthappu, Co-founder and President of Cera, said: “As someone who has sought care for a family member, I believe that the best home for seniors is their own. Our aim is to create a digital doorway to the over 65s, and curate services with partners to help them live more independently. In addition to rolling out partnerships with councils and hospitals, we are actively looking at other avenues including retail, food delivery and wearables, and how we might be able integrate them with our health-care technology.

“A key challenge in healthcare has been how we can pivot it from reactive, to proactive. With my background as a practising doctor, combined with Marek’s experience in building successful internet companies, we believe we’re in a strong position to take on this worthwhile challenge.”

Peter Sands, Chairman of Cera and former CEO of Standard Chartered bank, said: “Cera is all about enabling skilled, attentive carers to focus on what they do best – providing responsive, supportive care and companionship to people in their own homes. Cera’s innovative technology cuts the time carers have to spend on administrative tasks, on the phone or doing paperwork, so they can spend more of their time and energy listening, talking to and helping your loved ones.” 

Prof. Dame Carol Black, Advisor to Cera and former President of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “Technology-enabled homecare services have the potential, if delivered well, to greatly improve care provision to patients, to track their outcome, and ensure consistency of delivery.  Cera is doing this 24/7 and I look forward to working with them.”

Marek Sacha, Co-founder and CEO of Cera, said: “The current care system is broken. The market is served by archaic intermediary agencies, with inefficient operations, underpaid staff and poor quality care. Cera is here to challenge this. Through technology and more streamlined logistics, we can transform the service patients receive, use artificial intelligence to advise them on their conditions, while valuing carers and the great work they do.”

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