Telecare could save UK councils £3m to £7.8m per year

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A Tunstall-funded study by FACE Recording and Measurement Systems [Summary PDF download] claims that each UK council could save between £3m and £7.8m per year by moving from other forms of care to appropriate telecare. This is an extrapolation from reviews of a sample of 50 older people’s assessments. Hmm. Community Care item: Training social workers to spot telecare needs ‘will cut costs’.

Funny how the ‘7.8’ gives the impression of much more scientific accuracy than a round ‘8’ would. However, no one could disagree with the recommendations. (UPDATE: Someone did – see the comments!)


  1. I have to disagree with you Steve, I do not agree with their recommendations.

    One of them is “Councils should include standard methods of assessment and training in the applicability of telecare within their re-ablement and personalisation processes”, this is a carte blanche for councils to use standard forms to assess people instead of skilled assessors who visit people in their own homes and carry out person-centred assessment as advocated in DTA. We already know that many are using telephone calls as a method of assessing people and as long as they meet the FACs criteria and fall over or demonstrate a need for telecare this can be “prescribed” over the phone.

    We need to treat statements like this with a great deal of wariness.

    As for the headline savings…it is like saying we can all live in peace if we stop war!! Meaningless to quantify savings in this way.

    We provide telecare to people who could actually do with real support and then people deteriorate causing extra costs to hospitals and other services. we need to use telecare appropriately, for sure, but we need to ensure that other options are also considered. Telecare does not replace personal care and it never can.

    It seems we have forgotten the original rationale for telecare in our cost-saving manic mentality.

    Bring back common sense!

  2. Steve Hards, Editor

    Hi Guy,

    I knew I was tempting fate to say ‘no one could disagree!’ But actually, you are right. The recommendations are not good enough and I suspect that both Tunstall and FACE have an agenda to promote with this report.

  3. Cathy

    The report is correct that Telecare (and telehealth and teleanyotherthing) needs to be a mainstreamed fully embedded part of what we do – until that happens it will continue to be a postcode lottery.

    However, the report’s weaknesses include that the sample size is miniscule; we know neither what Telecare they were prescribing nor what it replaced. Sadly as Guy highlights Telecare is too often used as a replacement for another service.

    The report does not state that the telecare was actually prescribed so there has been neither consideration of the outcomes for the people nor follow up as to how long the telecare remained in situ. Purely offering Telecare based on the cost saving does not meet the statutory duty of meeting assessed need AND if the Telecare does not stay in situ there is no cost saving!

    No consideration is given to the ongoing support required by some telecare eg GPS Location does not just work by magic; there are tasks associated with maintaining that system that the telecare doesn’t do – including interacting when a family changes something in the environment that triggers changes in settled patterns of Telecare use. This can be time consuming but undoubtedly whilstever the outcome is still a better one for the supported person it is the right thing to do; and incidentally the cost saving is favourable still.

    There are two misconceptions in the scene setting.

    [quote]Older people are one of the client groups that has typically been found to benefit most from telecare.[/quote]
    Of course, older people can benefit from Telecare but I believe the people who can benefit most are younger people when it can truly enable them and work in a preventative way or support them to have financial independence (of course that will also ultimately benefit them as older people).

    There is also a statement that people in residential care were excluded because their care is provided by support staff and not telecare. Increasingly Care homes are finding that they need telecare to support their nursecall systems. Care homes are very risk averse places and gaining the alert from particular peripherals rather than simply a pressed button can support better decision making on the part of the staff. In fact this reiterates the erroneous presumption that telecare can replace people provided care – it works with people provided care and rarely in total isolation.

    … in fact with all the vagueness and the headline figures this summary report reminds me of something else … WSD reporting? Unlike WSD apparently the full report is available on request to FACE.

    Guy I do not disagree with you about the nature of telecare evaluation that needs to become embedded; however we do need to realise (not necessarily accept) that we do already work within the tick box culture you describe. This process approach is what predominantly allows suppliers to persuade authorities to buy in bulk and it is largely why so many people are prescribed a pendant alarm and nothing else. I think that the wording that FACE have chosen for the recommendations is the problem. Reading the Discussion section they are more explicit that:

    [quote]… there needs to be a standard approach to assessment which can be used to trigger identification of needs for telecare and to monitor the impact of deployment at the individual level. Consideration of the suitability of telecare should be a routine part of the assessment process, both by care managers and during re-ablement. This requires both investment in staff training and modification of assessment tools to ensure that the relevant questions and guidance are included.[/quote]

    This does not mean to say that more developed assessment or evaluation is not needed – but it provides the mainstreaming opportunity to deliver that additional assessment and ensure that the person benefits from the Telecare rather than simply looking at the authorities cash book.

    As far as I can see this summary report is a sales pitch … and I don’t think we need more of those!

  4. UpNorthtotheright

    What I took from this report is that it was compiled by a company that relies on the success of the company that sponsored the ‘study’.

    It also was not spell checked – but that’s me being anal.

    Also the two companies are an anagram of ‘Tune all facts’ – apt I think.