Lax rules on care alarms 'putting lives of pensioners at risk' (UK)

“Lives are being risked because of a poor practice in the booming but unregulated ‘red button’ personal alarm industry…Financial Mail is aware of several cases in the past year where the red buttons have been rendered useless after telephone connections have failed or been cut off…The industry is not regulated and information is not shared between phone companies and alarm providers…Anyone can set up a personal alarm service…The Telecare Services Association is the trade body for the lifeline industry. It has produced a code of practice. But there is no requirement on firms either to join the TSA or, if they are members, to sign up.” Full item from This is Money: Lax rules on red button care alarms ‘putting lives of pensioners at risk’

This is Money is part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group, so expect to see an item on this topic popping up in the mainstream newspapers soon.

10 thoughts on “Lax rules on care alarms 'putting lives of pensioners at risk' (UK)

  1. I am struggling to see how regulation of the pendant alarm system can address this issue.

    This particular issue affects ALL pendant alarm providers including the biggest provider of Telecare and monitoring in the UK who has this issue the same as any ‘fly by night’ provider. Unless there is a change in the design in all products it seems futile.

    Does anyone know how to get around if the landline is cut off or if ‘connections have failed’? Not sure what the latter means because there are regs on landline failure and Ofcom take this very seriously – as do the Telecoms providers.

    The same issue arises if the client themselves unplugs the unit from the telephone line – and this appears to be far more common. How do you raise an alert if you switch your phone off?

    You could put a SIM in the unit to cover for those very rare cases. This increases the costs of the units and this will be passed on to the service user. Higher costs equals fewer users. SIMs themselves are far less reliable than a landline anyway so you cannot still guarantee that when you press, somebody will answer.

    I am no expert but I work with these systems, their suppliers, staff and users and we ensure people know how it works and why it won’t work. At this moment in time I think this is where we are.

    There may be a case for tighter regulation but not based on this argument.

  2. [quoting “UpNorthAndToTheRight”… because there are regs on landline failure and Ofcom take this very seriously – as do the Telecoms providers.]

    Not in my experience – my parents live in a rural area and within the past 12 months have had several problems with their phone line including having no phone line for a month … it was only rectified when I contacted BT and complained that my vulnerable parents (and they took exception at being flagged as vulnerable in their mid 70s) were cut off – the operator informed me it wasn’t an issue since they had mobile phones. Well yes they do but to use them they have to travel 6 miles (and 6 miles back again). BT did get an engineer there the following day after that conversation but it should not have been necessary. My parents are not daft, they can complain well enough themselves – they just were limited in their mechanisms for doing so and running up a big mobile bill and fuel bill trying to explain to their line provider.

    Despite repeated reminders and a great deal of frustration it has taken BT a further 12 months to identify my parent’s address and phone number to the correct exchange!

    And yes I appreciate this is part of the risk of living rurally but in fact their location is not so rural that this should be an issue.

    [quote]I am no expert but I work with these systems, their suppliers, staff and users and we ensure people know how it works and why it won’t work. At this moment in time I think this is where we are.[/quote]

    That is all good and important to continue doing – but what if the user cannot inform anyone that their line is faulty? It could be resolved if line providers came to the table and accepted their responsibility for ensuring that anyone identified as having a critical need phone line (eg they have a pendant alarm installed) will get priority on resolving line failures. If OFCOM take the landline failures seriously maybe they should be round the table for that discussion too?

  3. Cathy – you are totally right on the individual situation – I was thinking more along if there are failures from the exchanges.
    Again you are right if the companies that provide Telecoms sit down and work out a way of identifying somebody who is vulnerable; who has a pendant alarm through a landline. I didn’t think that way because I cannot see it happening.

    If one big supplier of Telecoms in the UK did it then it would lead the way for others but I still think there are too many variables in the communication chain.

    The aim of the article was to point out that there are these non-approved pendant alarm providers popping up all over the place putting people’s lives at risk. As you have clearly identified it is not those organisations that are doing this but it is in fact the Telecoms providers who are putting people in danger.

    I am pretty sure that if there was an amendment to the current regs that the line providers comply with then this would be sufficient – as opposed to having an entirely new set of standards for pendant providers that are not actually needed (not for this issue anyway).

    1. Hi

      I know this was a while ago but, should you be looking for a solution to this problem, we have it. If you would like to know more, please do not hesitate to email me.

      Kind regards

  4. Hi Richard

    There is a solution! CSL Communications have a number of services which constantly monitor telephone lines and will notify the control center within 4 minutes if the line fails. We also have the facility to send a GPRS call (no speech) if the telephone line is not available. This is very new to our industry but using tried and tested technology from the security alarm world.

  5. Richard and Mark – these are steps in the right direction and it is great to hear it is happening. This potentially helps us resolve a situation where the line goes down because a vulnerable person has forgotten to/decided not to pay the bill? It certainly flags that a person’s vulnerability has just increased in the event of a technical line fault – that is very useful providing the protocol is to assess immediately for alternative supports during the failure.

  6. Cathy, yes this service will notify the control centre within 4 minutes if the line is disconnected for non payment, if it is un plugged, faulty or has been slammed (which is becoming increasingly prevalent). This service also extends to hard wired scheme equipment and providing dual path signalling for fire alarm systems on schemes. I agree that the protocol to provide alternative support is essential, we do have the benefit that While the line is unavailable we can still send an alarm call to the control centre, albeit with no speech but at least that person has some level of cover.

  7. Thats helpful info Mark and Richard. At a recent TSA forum, Ofcom presented some really helpful info on how we as careline alarm service providers can assist in helping clients make sure their landline service provider prioritises them as a customer. We highligted some of the ways here back in May:

    Its true to say that there are new providers trying to get into the market reguarly. It would appear certainly from our and I know Richards experience, that many of these are from people who have little or no experience in the industry, and solely focused on a “quick buck” which is a dangerous thing in our view. The most recent one we had knock on our door asking for advice was a PPI claims organisation. I doubt whether they are best placed to provide a life critical service. Needless to say we declined to offer access to our service.

  8. One thing I am not impressed with Stewart, and it is an aside to this discussion but I spotted it when following you link, Dr Hilary Jone’s Official Guide has a misleading title – that is not a telecare guide it is a guide to a Dispersed alarms.

    Clearly that is your business focus but dispersed alarm is not the B all and end all of telecare and Telecare24 and the TSA should be keen to get that title changed ASAP to be more representative.

  9. New service to be set up soon that will provide line and device checking and all the peripherals, need to know that someone is safe and well? Line and device checked constantly, so if the line goes down or the product is disconnected you (family/friends/carers) will be informed instantly!
    if you want to know more contact me.

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