What's up with the Newham WSD project?

At the TSA conference a month ago, a couple of people approached me [Steve] and said “You should check out what’s happening at Newham”, indicating that something was amiss with the Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) project there, but refusing to tell me what.

Well, I can’t do much with non-information like that, but last week I learned from a reliable source [see comments] that recent project board meetings with the Department of Health have been cancelled; that Fred Reardon, the Telecare Project Manager was ‘let go’ [see comments]; and that two of the other three project managers are on the way out after Christmas. That only leaves the programme director, Martin Scarfe, and the fourth project manager holding the fort.

Newham was slow to get into providing public information on the WSD, but then started to come through strongly with its website http://www.newhamwsdtrial.org. However, there is, of course, no news there of this turn of events.

Is the WSD Programme at risk altogether? Or just at risk of being fudged?

Martin Scarfe was given the opportunity to comment before posting this item, but nothing has been heard from him.

If you know something that you think the public should know about these events, leave a comment. If you wish to comment anonymously, email Steve first or phone +44 (0)20 8144 1643

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UPDATE: Tuesday 15th 2:15pm

In response to the above question I had the following from a reader whose identity I will keep anonymous. Any further responses will go into the usual comment section.

The fact is that the heaviest and most demanding element of the WSD project, patient recruitment, has come to an end and the workload has reduced enormously, requiring fewer people working on the project.

The guys involved with the Newham WSD achieved what at one stage seemed like the impossible: they inherited a project that had no direction or substance despite the DH and the evaluation team’s insistence that no non-English speaking patients could join the programme. This hindered the recruitment process as I am sure you will understand in a extremely diverse London Borough.

My advice is…do not discredit your website by getting involved in this gossip as I do admire your website and the work it does and this industry needs good positive stories.

The only people to really suffer are the people who need assistive technology to be deployed so we can improve their quality of lives and that must be the industry’s objective.

Lets move onwards and upwards.

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3 thoughts on “What's up with the Newham WSD project?

  1. Newham: Fred Reardon responds

    I am pleased to publish Fred Readon’s email to me in full, as a comment, as he requests. Steve

    15 December 2009

    Hi Steve,

    I have just read your article regarding the WSD Telecare project in Newham, and I feel I should write to correct the statements made by your ‘reliable source’ whoever that maybe.

    Can I first suggest that it would have been a good idea to contact me before using my name and a comment about why I have left the Newham, from your reliable source, that is not true.

    1. I was not ‘let go’, in fact my contract has come to a natural end as I have successfully completed the task and recruited the target number of people into the WSD telecare trial, whilst this has been challenging at times this has been a result of superb team work from various services and organisations in Newham, including the Adult services team at Newham social services and Newham Network control centre led by Chris Willis, with myself as project manager. I would also point out that at no time did I expect to remain in Newham once the task was completed, in fact the WSD transition plan requires a mainstream telecare strategy, which Newham has along with an existing telecare manager.

    2. I am only aware of one WSD board meeting with the DH that was cancelled recently, this was due to unforseen circumstances and requested by a senior member of the board.

    Whilst I accept that you do need to have information passed to you to report, and I do find your service very useful to keep me upto date with the latest news on telecare and telehealth, when a reliable source provides you with information they should be required to give you evidence that is true and verifiable, and not be hearsay or their own opinion.

    The WSD project is very important in raising the profile of Telecare and Telehealth, and in sending a clear message to central and local government that it should be part of the front line delivery of social care and health services. I have been a passionate believer for several years that Telecare and and more recently Telehealth does make a difference to peoples lives and has we and many other projects have proved saves lives, and I look forward to seeing the evlauation from the project that I have enjoyed to be part of.

    Please feel free to post this as comment in reply to the article.


    Fred Reardon Telecare Consultancy Ltd
    Independent Consultant
    01634 366957
    07973 229624

  2. Official comment needed

    Why nothing official from Newham? The Council could scotch all of the rumours very quickly by stating clearly where it has got to in relation to its original plans and where it is going from here. The Council’s silence will only feed the rumours.

    [I am happy to confirm on behalf of Gerry Allmark, Telecare & Telehealth Manager at Newham that he is not the Gerry that posted this comment.  Steve]

  3. Apologies and lessons

    First, I apologise for the hurt the item clearly caused some people.

    In mitigation, may I ask readers to consider the context.

    Perhaps the response would have been less angry if I had said ‘source’ rather than ‘reliable source’, and I did try and cross-check what I was being told by emailing my draft item for comment to Martin Scarfe on the Thursday before Tuesday’s publication.

    However, it was not just the rumours circulating that something was wrong that caused me to prod the situation perhaps more vigorously than I otherwise might. There is a long history of non-communication by the people running the WSD projects until the roadshow events which, of course, not all parties interested in the progress and outcome of the project can attend.

    To be fair, some of the impetus to be tight-lipped about the project goes back to the Department of Health (see this Telecare Aware item 12 May 2008) but the difficulty of getting any news out of Newham was always a frustration. (Item, 19 May 2008).

    In fact, I will quote from the latter. I said We taxpayers expect more from the people entrusted to manage this potentially highly significant project: more speed, more openness and more competence. From the Department of Health down.

    So there are lessons to be had from this all round: for me to check even apparently reliable sources, and for people entrusted with spending public money to be more open and communicative. After all, many more people than those actually involved have an interest in seeing a successful outcome to the WSD project. All we really wanted was a little reassurance on progress from time to time, such as ‘this milestone has been reached, the project is still on track’ or ‘there’s been a bit of a delay but we have plans to catch up’.

    If you don’t give people an honest, accurate picture of what’s going on they will draw their own, inevitably negative, conclusions.

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