Wanless Report: Unequivocal endorsement of telecare

The King’s Fund review of social care in England, Securing Good Care for Older People, led by Sir Derek Wanless, referred to in the White Paper Our Health, Our Care, Our Say, was published today. TV, press and radio are giving most attention to the report’s recommendations on funding care but, importantly, it also gives an unequivocal endorsement of the need to include telecare in mainstream care services. The first recommendation in the Services and Service Re-configuration section says:

‘…enough pilot studies have now achieved positive results for telecare to be moved into the mainstream when planning long-term care for the elderly. The Review endorses current government policy in this regard, which is consistent with this recommendation. Funding should be deployed to realise the potential net value of telecare.’

References to telecare are sprinkled throughout the report which, helpfully, maintains a distinction between the terms ‘telecare’, ‘telehealth’ and ‘assistive technology’. Thankfully, the latter is used in its wide sense, including equipment such as stairlifts. (See our webpage What is telecare?)

However, telecare has a substantial 5 page section to itself (pages 155 – 160 (190 – 195 in the PDF version)) which considers the subject in a balanced way, going into some detail on cost benefit modelling (see our webpage Business Cases).

It also touches on other concerns: ‘Since loneliness is a big issue in old age, it might seem contrarian to promote technology which could reduce interaction with carers. But proponents of telecare argue that it can allow a redeployment of carer time, with a shift of resources towards more meaningful interactions. Given that an ‘intensive’ care package is usually defined as domiciliary care of more than 10 hours a week, that leaves many hours when telecare can complement formal care rather than substituting for it.’

In the future this report will undoubtedly be recognised as a turning point in the perception of telecare as a mainstream component of care services, and it was heartening to hear Minister Liam Byrne in his Radio 4 Today interview this morning refer twice to telecare and for James Naughtie not ask what it was!

Here are the links you need:

Kings Fund website to download full report and/or Chapter 9, which includes the main telecare section. There is a telecare background paper in the appendix to the report, which is not yet available on the site.

Radio 4 Today listen again. Navigate to today’s program and find the interview with Derek Wanless at 08.10 (2 hours 10 minutes into the whole broardcast) and Liam Byrne at 08.30 (2 hours 36 minutes in).