Newcastle (UK) 6 months' free telecare for people over 85

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In an attempt to increase the uptake of telecare, Newcastle City Council and Your Homes Newcastle have started a scheme to let people over 85 experience telecare free for six months. This follows the example of at least one other council (Tower Hamlets) and the call by Stephen Burke, Chief Executive of Counsel and Care, who made the case for free telecare in The Guardian in November.

Comments

  1. Telecare User

    Newcastle – Nothing New

    There are restrictions on this. You have to be new to Telecare and not have access to other alarm services, ie sheltered housing. Also it’s only 10 years or so since Newcastle changed its policy and started charging everyone. At one time the service was free to people who lived in council property on housing benefit no matter what age, and not only for six months. When the policy changed hundreds of people got rid of their alarm service. What happens after six months who pays then?

    Is this a sales ploy to try to encourage / bribe families to pay for the service after the six months on the basis people will feel guilty having it taken away?

    It would be interesting to see what percentage carry on with telecare services after the six months and to see if they do keep the service. Do they keep the Telecare part or just revert back to a standard, cheaper alarm pendant service? I think this is more of a sales pitch rather than making a case for free Telecare. One other point – will the uers get a choice of equipment or will it be one size fits all and one manufacturers equipment?

  2. Kevin Doughty

    Free telecare in Newcastle

    It is sad that anyone needs to knock the efforts of a council trying to promote a preventive approach to tackling the support needs of older people.

    Whilst this form of telecare (a care phone and a few sensors) may not necessarily represent the best value for money for the council in terms of outcomes and targets, the time-limited nature of the initiative offers an ideal way of understanding the costs involved, and of seeing the benefits to the health, social care and housing economies – providing that a robust and independent evaluation is performed using a matched group without telecare for comparison.

    I would like to see other councils follow Newcastle’s initiative with similar free offers but using alternative telecare technologies (using my definition of telecare!) – perhaps computer assisted proactive calling, video doorbells, plug-in automatic lights, collection of some physiological data, and mediated telephone discussion groups. Then we might see what type of telecare is most cost-effective.

    In terms of cost comparisons, I wonder if any council has considered providing a vulnerable group with a “broadband” (ADSL) connection and 6 months of service for free? This would open the door to a number of 2nd and 3rd generation telecare applications where an “always on” connection is required and where the new set-top boxes will be able to offer a wide range of information, remote rehab, videophone and other services free of charge. This might help to avoid the emergence of a cohort of digitally excluded people who become socially isolated and tomorrow’s big users of both NHS and council resources.

  3. James Batchelor

    Retention rates after free offers

    In response to the original poster, retention rates after free offers can be extremely high, depending on the service offered. We have seen retention rates of 75% although in less affluent areas this can drop, although rarely below 50%.

    The issue, to my mind, isn’t the fact a council is raising awareness of telecare through free trials, but that it might force inappropriate telecare and social alarm units onto ‘anyone it can’ to prove the project. Many councils seem obsessed with giving ‘box and button’ to people who are almost certainly never going to wear their pendant, and many social workers don’t consider whether the end user is likely to actually wear the pendant or not. Pendant alarms definitely have value, but their value is overstated for a majority of users When that becomes properly accepted is when councils will start to recognise the value of other telecare and educate their OTs and social workers well in terms of choosing who should be referred on to what. Right now, a lot of money spent on pendant alarms should be spent on other more appropriate telecare.

    Kevin, I share a lot of your views. BTW you mentioned ‘computer assisted proactive calling’… we’ve been doing this for years in various ways and, obviously it depends on what flavour you are talking about – but by and large making outbound automated calls to people to check they are safe (if that is what you are referring to) is something we don’t recommend, born out of extensive experience and real testing over years. It’s ultimately very stressful for end-users who feel they have to be in for calls. It’s 100 times better to allow people the freedom to say they are okay in their own time. This also serves as a simple cognitive test. The best things are always simple!

    For those who are not familiar with how ‘smart telephony’ and how different but simple approaches can support people, take a look at http://www.alertacall.com

    Regards,

    James Batchelor
    Alertacall Ltd

  4. Kevin Doughty

    Free and different telecare offers

    James,

    My purpose in commenting on the Newcastle proposal was not to criticise them for going down a particular path, but to support their commitment to recognising that something needs to be done to make more people aware of the benefits of telecare technologies and services of all types and all flavours.

    I would happily add your application of low-cost telecare to the list that needs to be formally and robustly evaluated. Then, we can with confidence ensure that all the professional prescribers of community services (and the independent advocates of people with personal budgets) are fully aware of the pros and cons of each type of telecare service. This will enable them to recommend the most appropriate solution to meeting the unmet needs, and risks to independence and social exclusion of the people that they assess. Everyone is different (thankfully) so while a button and a box – and a local call handling centre – might not suit some people, it might be exactly what others need.

    The challenge facing the prescribers is matching the service to the assessment results – and that needs more and better training and education.

    Perhaps service providers and equipment vendors will join together to fund more independent evaluations and training packages that will ultimately benefit everyone!

  5. Mike Orton

    Free 6 month Telecare trials

    I think there are important concerns around how Telecare has been approached by some local authorities, especially in trying to achieve targets as per the previous Preventative Technology Grant. This may well have influenced short term direction rather than looking at how the benefits of this type of technology can be integrated as part of an overall care solution and a truly joined up and sustainable approach.

    Wey, Stephen. (2006) Telecare should be demystified (Therapy Weekly April 13th 2006) mentions Community Alarms/Telecare will feature very strongly in future care provision, it has been demonstrated to be useful, wanted and cost effective….. “however, there are concerns that technology could be seen as a ‘quick fix’ to manage problems and risks rather than as a means of empowering and enabling vulnerable people”

    I have seen several Pilots that have supplied Telecare initially as a free trial, only to have to extend the free monitoring service. These were usually to achieve a quick fix and as a result of a discrete project approach. It makes more sense to work in an integrated care approach embedding Telecare and other similar technology into the care pathway as one of a choice of solutions available to support and give confidence to the user to remain within the home. In this way it may have a greater chance of being mainstreamed.

    Telecare can be cost effective by not only supporting people and delaying entry into a residential home but also to prevent existing needs from escalating into a higher and more resource intensive care need, especially when combined with a physical response service. Money spent upfront in prevention will achieve a greater saving in the longer term, as we know in most areas of life.

    Some enlightened authorities have recognised this.

  6. TRC Insider

    Achieving Targets

    As per the previous post the only concern is that the whole project should be evaluated on the benefits of supplying telecare and there must be a thorough assessment and the appropriate equipment installed and not just putting Telecare in for the sake of it.

    My concern is that this may be used for the specific point of hitting targets for the year I am aware that Local Authorities including Newcastle have based their success on the number of Telecare users they have and these targets/numbers are built into their business plans for the year. It has openly been discussed at TSA meetings and the question is always asked how many Telecare users do you have (a bit like bragging rights). I am also aware that a number of authorities used the PTG to hit their target numbers. It has been reported that within some services they installed flood detectors into every sheltered accommodation property and gave falls detectors to everyone in sheltered housing smoke detectors ect. (even if they didn’t need one)this allowed the services to hit their targets and claim over 1000 telecare users.

    I think until services concentrate on the quality of service and the correct installation of appropriate devices is the priority and not number of users then Telecare may struggle. I hope the above schemes are not just to get the numbers up maybe someone could let us know how the success will be evaluated.