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Call for urgent action on latest state of the NHS Providers report

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Article published in Care Sector Hub.

A new report on the challenges facing the NHS and the provision of community services has revealed the urgent need for healthcare commissioners to invest in cost effective digital telecare services and applications. 

NHS Providers’ State of the provider sector report, entitled ‘Community services: taking centre stage’ confirmed that technology has enabled “multiple interventions” to be carried out in the home or in community settings, which is essential to the integrity of healthcare provision as the population ages. 

However, the report sets out how community services are struggling to meet demand as budgets decline. It further highlights that the majority (three quarters) of community care providers in England are worried that investment will fail to deliver services closer to home for patients in the next five years. 

Tom Morton, CEO of telecare specialist Communicare247, said digital telecare services which enable people to stay in their homes longer as well as save commissioners cash were essential to overcoming the community care crunch facing England.

He said: “We welcome the report from NHS Providers which sets out in stark terms the damage that the lack of adequate support for people in their homes can cause.

“According to the report, a person aged 80 who spends ten days in a hospital bed adds ten years of ageing to their muscles, which makes their ability to live independently that much harder. 

“Demographic trends for the UK population are undeniable. The NHS and community care commissioners must act now to ensure that robust systems of telecare and tele-healthcare that deliver improved patient outcomes are put into use. The report found that 91% of health care trusts expect the gap between funding and demand to widen significantly just in the next year. 

“Not only this, but there is an urgent issue facing telecare service providers as the UK telephone network switches to digital. Existing systems are at risk and need to be modernised to deal with future requirements as soon as possible.

“We urge commissioners to plan and invest now in digital and technology-enabled care services such as 24-7 mobile monitoring, digital pill dispensers and other ‘hospital@home’ support systems. These are available, tested and deliver improved patient outcomes by ensuring people can leave hospital and get the care they need at home.”

Digital telecare specialist warns switch off could lead to failure of home care systems

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Social healthcare commissioners must move quickly to do adopt new telecare systems as the UK faces a switch-off in its analogue network, a specialist has said.

Current telecare systems that ensure the safety of people in their homes will soon be obsolete and local authorities in Dundee and across the UK need to adopt solutions to ensure these services remain robust, Tom Morton, CEO of digital telecare specialist Communicare247 said.

Speaking at the Dundee Smartcare Convention, Mr Morton highlighted that the analogue telecommunications system currently used to deliver telecare to around 5,900 users in Dundee and Tayside will be completely shut off by 2025 and replaced by a digital (IP) system.

He said: “Telecare and telehealth plays an increasingly important role in health and care yet it is threatened by disruption as UK telecommunications shift from analogue to digital.

“Not only this, but the number of people reliant on telecare in the UK is expected to treble by 2020. The current analogue system is already unsustainable, yet more and more people are expected to be reliant on these kinds of services as the population ages and they want to live as independently as possible for as long as possible.

“The vast majority of current telecare systems will need to be upgraded or decommissioned in order to maintain services to users. Conferences such as the Dundee Smartcare Convention are essential to ensure awareness is raised about this issue.”

The UK and Scotland is currently investigating the use of systems that will allow social healthcare providers to continue supporting an estimated 1.7million users of telecare in Britain. However, current proposals currently being developed in the UK are unlikely to offer the best solution to the problem caused by the switch to digital, Mr Morton said.

Mr Morton believes that analogue telephone adaptors (ATAs) – so called hybrid systems – currently being tested are not sufficiently robust and could lead to failures in UK telecare systems, causing undue risk for users.
He said: “BT has confirmed the shut off is starting this year and will be complete by 2025. Already the analogue system is unsustainable due to increasing demands.

“Current analogue services already report around 3% of failed call attempts between the home and response services, because they cannot communicate effectively over the new digital telephone network systems.

“The hybrid solutions currently being tested in the UK have been shown to have too high a failure rate in other countries like Sweden, where they have adopted fully digital telecare systems instead. We cannot allow people to be at risk because their home alarm system failed to work.

“Experts at Ofcom and the Scottish Government increasingly favour a fully digital solution which will ensure telecare systems are fail-proof and future-proof as new technologies in monitoring and support come into play.”

In Scotland, costs to ensure telecare services can still be delivered following the switch to digital are estimated to start at around £48million. However, Mr Morton said digital telecare services will be more cost effective for social care providers including Dundee City Council.

Mr Morton said: “Reports on deployment of digital telecare have shown the potential to create savings of between £3m to £7.8m for a typical council. This will be increasingly important for Scotland’s councils and the NHS which must cut hundreds of millions from health service budgets while dealing with significant growth in users due to demographics.”

Communicare247 recently won the Local Excellence Award at the at the Scotland Excel Supplier Excellence Awards, which recognised the work the company has done with Falkirk Council to address a national switchover from analogue to digital technology, provide better solutions and increase citizen choice.

Digital telecare specialist honoured at Scotland Excel’s Supplier Excellence Awards

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The following article was featured in Digit, Scotland’s Technology Media and Events Hub.

A Glasgow SME has scooped a prestigious award at the only awards programme in Scotland that recognises the achievements of local government suppliers.

Communicare247 was crowned winner in the Local Excellence category at the Scotland Excel Supplier Excellence Awards.

The company is a supplier on the Scotland Excel Telecare and Telehealth contract which helps Scottish councils support people with a wide range of needs and enable people to live independently.

Their Local Excellence Award recognised the work the company has done with Falkirk Council to address a national switchover from analogue to digital technology, provide better solutions and increase citizen choice.

Tom Morton, CEO of Communicare247, said: “We started off our company to highlight the advantages of digital technology in telecare and winning the award is one of the best ways to highlight that.

“We are so pleased that all our hard work delivering a telecare solution that is fit for purpose and fit for the future has been recognised as an example of excellence by Scotland’s leading public procurement partnership.

“Winning means a reward for the Communicare247 team. Not only that, it acknowledges the support of fantastic people at Falkirk Council and Scotland Excel, who helped us all the way through the procurement process. It is a massive journey – it is not something for a small business to take lightly.”

Julie Welsh, director of Scotland Excel, said: “Our suppliers play a vital role in supporting delivery of essential public services, and it is right and fitting that we recognise those that go the extra mile.

“Winning a Supplier Excellence Awards is a real accolade for the business community, as it’s the only awards programme in the country to recognise the achievements of local government suppliers. Competition was tough, and our expert judging panel had its work cut out.

“My congratulations go to Communicare247 for their good work and well-deserved success in these prestigious awards.”

Twelve businesses scooped awards at the glittering event in Glasgow’s Radisson Blu Hotel which was hosted by Dougie Vipond, and opened by Derek Mackay, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution on Tuesday 20 February.

Government commitment to digital paves way for telecare services but time to act is now

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A Scottish Government plan to deliver care at home for our citizens was welcomed by an industry leader who called for urgent action now that a digital strategy has been agreed.

Tom Morton, CEO of Communicare247, said the government’s commitment to digital telecare services in Scotland would deliver significant improvements to health and social care, such as a reduction in delayed discharge from hospitals and help to ensure our citizens will be able to remain living independently in their homes for as long as possible.

 But he said the government needs to remain focussed so that 160,000 users of telecare in Scotland continue to be supported by the service which is being rendered obsolete by changes to the UK telephone network.

The ‘Scotland’s Digital Health and Care Strategy’ sets out a Scottish Government pledge to “ensure that social care systems are fit for the future… and support the significant impact of the impending switch over of  the UK’s telephony system to a digital network and its impact on analogue telecare services”.

BT will soon start switching the UK’s analogue telephone network to a fully digital network. Work commencing in August 2018 is expected to be completed by 2025. However other telecom providers have already begun the journey. Scotland’s 32 local authorities and 22 alarm receiving centres will need to be fully adapted to the digital network when the analogue system is shut off.

However, some operators of alarm receiving centres which answer distress signals from telecare users are already experiencing spikes in rates of call failures, which are being blamed on network incompatibility.

Tom Morton, who founded digital telecare company Communicare247 in Scotland over ten years ago, said that local authorities have less time than they think to put in place the technology and finance required to deliver digital telecare services.

He said: “There are 160,000 telecare users in Scotland. The budget pressures for local authorities and care providers mean that they cannot achieve transition within the deadline unless Government acts to give a clear direction.

“Existing budget spend for analogue services, which are effectively rendered obsolete by this announcement, means that most councils will take up to nine years to transition the existing users over to a digital service.  However the Government also has aspirations to increase the deployment of telecare. 

“Meanwhile, between autumn 2018 and 2025, large swathes of the UK will be switched affecting up to 1.7m telecare users. Ofcom has warned of their concerns for the impact to social alarm service users.

“The Telecare Services Association is leading the discussions and attempting to raise awareness, but any change needs to be driven at the local service provider level – the council.

“Given the budget challenges, and the closing deadline, and the increasing risk which is evidenced by reports of alarm call handling failures, it is up to the Government to provide clear guidance for a rapid change to safeguard our citizens.  

“The Digital Health and Care Strategy is an excellent first step as it fully embraces possibilities that digital telecare services will provide for citizens. It paves the way for sensor and monitoring technologies that enable people to live independently at home for longer. It is also offers an effective plan that will reduce pressure on the NHS to discharge people in a timely manner, as home support will be much easier to implement. Scotland now has a clear direction of travel when it comes to digital telecare but there is no room for deviation.”

Communicare 247 Short listed for Scottish Excel Supplier Excellence Award – Local Excellence

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Communicare247 are delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted for  the 2018 Scottish Excel, Supplier Excellence Awards for Local Excellence!

The award for local excellence recognises the work undertaken by micro-businesses, small companies or third sector organisations to deliver benefits to their customers.

Over the last 12 months, Communicare247 have been working with local authority Falkirk Council in their ambitious journey from analogue to digital.

Together, we have developed a state of the art platform designed to ease the transition between these two technologies while providing an effective level of care. As a proud Scottish SME, we are excited by the leaps we have taken. By simply listening to the wants and needs of our customer, we have been able to produce a unique cloud-based platform which integrates seamlessly with digital telecare services.

Although Communicare247 is small in stature, our ambition knows no limit. We aim to transform the UK telecare sector and improve the lives of millions of men and women.

We look forward to joining Scottish Excel on the 20th of February 2018 at the Radisson Blue, Glasgow and wait
with baited breath to find out the winner.

 

 

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