Telecare – it’s not just about the kit

Assistive technology has existed for decades; NHS England’s Technology Enabled Care Services programme is just the latest of numerous attempts to promote it. Assistive technology has not been consistently adopted, however, partly because of resistance from social care managers and social workers.

One of the first examples of assistive technology to go mainstream in some areas is telecare – equipping social care customers with passive devices that connect them via the telephone system with a 24-hour monitoring and response service. Many adult social care directors are recognising telecare as an opportunity for both improved citizen outcomes and savings.

Before they can realise this opportunity, councils must understand the benefits that telecare offers them and their citizens, and the actions needed to make telecare projects happen.

Telecare helps both councils and their customers

Properly deployed, telecare improves the quality of social care services, helping those who might otherwise be isolated and at risk. For example:

  • Round-the-clock passive monitoring ensures that falls in the home are discovered quickly, dramatically improving the prognosis.
  • With reduced need for 15-minute checks, social care workers can make fewer but more worthwhile visits.
  • Eliminating unnecessary domiciliary care helps customers to remain independent.
  • Third-generation telecare equipment enables two-way video interaction and self-care training.
  • Savings from telecare are substantial. A comprehensive telecare package costs about £750 per annum – equivalent to one hour per week of domiciliary care for a year, and less than two weeks’ residential care.

Making mainstream telecare happen

Getting telecare into the mainstream involves:

  • Getting the attention of senior management by preparing a local business case, as evidenced by Wiltshire Council and Hampshire County Council.
  • Implementing service delivery capabilities: sourcing telecare equipment and contracting with providers of installation, monitoring and response.
  • Driving a cultural shift so that care workers think of telecare as a default prescription, to be deployed unless there is a clear contra-indication.

Council staff and intermediaries should actively refer people who are not eligible for council-funded care to telecare providers. Private telecare provision benefits these customers, delays entry into council-funded care and creates economies of scale that make the whole service more affordable.

The key challenge of introducing telecare is to bring about the necessary cultural and behavioural changes. PA’s experience of managing major change programmes places us ideally to help make sustainable change happen. We collaborate closely with care managers and providers, and help authorities achieve and measure outcomes from telecare as evidenced by our recent work with Wiltshire Council and Hampshire County Council.

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