Telecare scheme progress: Lancashire County Council responds (UK)

I’m pleased to publish the following official response by Steve Sylvester, Telecare Projects Manager, to the item Is Building Telecare in England coming off the rails? (6 August) and its follow-up Councillor defends Lancashire’s telecare scheme (10 August)

“The same week that the [newspaper] article was released, the meeting which sparked it all off took place (this was the Lancashire Local-Pendle meeting) and the response was overwhelming, (and I believe unanimous) support for the service and the way it has been developed in such a short time. Attending the meeting were local Council elected members and County Councillors. It was very reassuring to get such positive support from local and County members at this time.

Lancashire is a large County with very diverse needs and issues, and contains wards from either end of the deprivation spectrum. The very nature of the County and the complex mix of District and County Council responsibilities only adds to the difficulties when introducing new and innovative services.

We knew that it would be a real challenge to commission a Telecare service which was consistent across the County, and capable of responding to local circumstances. We wanted it to be a local service, developed in partnership with local District Councils, Health Colleagues and local Community Alarm providers. We also wanted to ensure that the new service included a comprehensive response service available to all on a 24/7 basis. The new service launched late last year met these requirements, and we were pleased that we had managed to achieve this within a very short time.

However, we recognised early on that the service we could deliver in the timeframe available would need time to develop and evolve before it came close to our long term vision for Telecare in Lancashire. That said, the service we have now is a huge step forward from the basic Community alarm service we had available prior the Lancashire Telecare Service.

We have encountered many challenges during the last year, and together with our Telecare providers, equipment providers and members of our Telecare Steering group, we have found solutions to the problems as they have presented themselves. We continue to review the service and have commissioned two independent evaluations to examine the way the service is delivered and barriers to service user take up. Having a clear picture of the benefits the service can deliver is a vital factor in considering the long term future and sustainability of the service. Clearly our objective is to mainstream the service and have a seamless Social Care and prevention service incorporating Telecare. We recognise that we are a long way off from achieving this goal.

For the service to grow and evolve, we need to encourage the growth of new Telecare service users. The more we have, the easier it is to demonstrate that the service can provide a good quality, unobtrusive and cost effective service which supports the Telecare user and provides the peace of mind and reassurance demanded by the family or carer.

The promotion of the service together with delivering a programme of training and awareness raising was identified very early on as a priory for the new service and so far we have delivered this training directly to over 1300 staff across the Social Care, Health, Housing and Voluntary sector. In addition, we have delivered presentations to carers groups, Fire service, Older People’s partnership boards, Senior Management, and of course, local council meetings such as the Lancashire Locals.

Establishing a new service does take time, and we need to change the way people think away from the more traditional services, to innovative ways of providing help and support. However, this also takes time. The best way to promote a new service is through the use of examples of good news stories and local case studies, which is what we are now doing along with the identification of local Telecare “Champions” who can offer support and advice to colleagues in locality offices.

Just to give you an idea of a few of the steps we had already taken before the press articles, I have listed a few of the main action points we have agreed:

• The setting of local targets based on local population demographics

• The identification and training of Telecare Champions for each locality office

• The streamlining of the referral form and making this available as an electronic version

• The commissioning of a range of new promotional material

• The establishment of a new Lancashire Telecare Website (available next week)

• The launch of Telecare week (10th September to 14th September)

• The Lancashire Telecare Conference (Lancaster University 10th September)

• The establishment of SMART homes across the County

• The commissioning of two independent service evaluations

However, we still have a few key challenges ahead, in addition to increasing the number of Telecare service users, including:

• Unpicking the Supporting People contracts for the local Community Alarm services and incorporating the Lancashire Telecare service

• Resisting the pressure to play the numbers game. Rather than throwing in Telecare and including the basic Community Alarm services within the LTS (which we know we can do if we want to increase numbers quickly), we wish to pursue a managed, and strategic development of a targeted Telecare service

• To demonstrate the long term viability of the LTS and mainstream the service

• Ensuring that we can deliver a consistent service across the County, including a response service, which avoids the “postcode lottery” problems which can pose a challenge when developing services across such a wide and diverse County

• Ensuring that the response service is comprehensive and includes a personal care response when necessary

I hope this response helps to allay any suggestions that Lancashire has been in any way complacent in the way it has invested the Preventative Technology Grant and in its development of the LTS, and I truly believe that the problems that we have encountered are not dissimilar to many of the Local Authorities with Social Services responsibilities across the Country, particularly the two tier authorities.”

Enquiries concerning this item to:

Steve Sylvester, Health Liaison & Service Development Officer/Telecare Projects Manager, Lancashire County Council, Tel: 01695 585833 (Thursday and Friday) or Mark Luraschi, Tel: 0778 961 8136 at other times.