A report looking at the amount of time professional carers should give to patients with long term conditions has encouraged trusts and local authorities to make better use of existing telecare technology.
The report, by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), titled “Time to Care?” says that many people find their care workers are too rushed, and there is little time to forge trust between carers and clients. These time constraints demoralise both clients and carers, and undermine service levels.
It recommends that trusts and local authorities look for new approaches to organising and delivering care services, so that people have more choices.
CSCI spent time observing the Sandwell Telecare Project, a joint initiative between Sandwell Council in the West Midlands and the local NHS trusts.
The report says: “The role and profile of telecare in Sandwell has grown steadily over recent years. This goes beyond community alarm systems to a much wider range of equipment and technologies. All of the people also receive home care support from care workers for personal care tasks, but the additional technology support has enabled those workers to be more effectively used (for example, reducing the number of short visits required).”
The suggestions raised in the CSCI report have been welcomed by UK telecare solutions companies.
A spokesperson from telecare systems developer Tunstall said: “We welcome the suggestions made by the CSCI report to help patients have more choice over their health. Telecare solutions are proven to play a central role in addressing some of the key issues facing carers and the growing older population.
“Our systems can clearly help carers avoid unnecessary visits and make more time for patients who need priority care. Telehealth can provide 24 hours care, rather than limited 15 minute visits and through our constant monitoring, we can contact the patients when it is obvious to us that they are in need of attention.”
The report follows the Government’s White Paper, Our health, our care, our say, which makes it clear that assistive technology is set to grow as health and social care services move to provide people with more independence, choice and control.
The White Paper highlights the "exciting new possibilities opened up by assistive technologies" and makes a commitment to demonstrate how assistive technology can make a difference to people’s lives through a series of pilot sites.
Celia Price, director of telecare system supplier Just Checking, told EHI: “There are inherent problems in home care services with a lack of capacity forcing visits which are too short and rushed. But technology could play an important part in re-shaping these services.”
The Just Checking system shows the pattern of activity of a person living in their own home. A chart of activity is made available to care professionals and family carers over the internet.
Price added: “While there is great sensitivity about reducing home care visits because of fears about social isolation, the use of technology to underpin some tasks gives scope for re-shaping services.
“For example, rather than a person with dementia receiving three home care visits a day, some of which are in essence to check the person is OK, it would be possible to ‘check’ how someone is doing using technology, and then to organise one longer, social visit, perhaps to go out together.”
The CSCI hopes to see telecare relieving much of the time pressures on carers by giving low-level, round-the-clock support. A spokesperson told EHI that the work they had seen in Sandwell, which included alarm systems, radio transmitters and medication dispensers were ‘exciting innovations they would like to see used across the country.’
Dame Denise Platt DBE, chair of the CSCI said in her foreword: “People who receive home care are frequently not satisfied with the way that services are currently provided. Many are very dissatisfied with the ‘15 minute slot’ model of service, which they experience as undignified and unsafe. Many find the task-based approach of the majority of councils insensitive to their needs.”
“Enabling people to live as independently as possible in their own home is a key theme of current public policy and central to achieving the vision set out in the White Paper Our Health, Our Care, Our Say. Without good quality home care services, this vision will not be realised,” she added.
Following the reports publication, Tunstall has publishes a guide for carers with the help of Carers UK called the Support for Carers Technology Guide which will offer practical advice and guidance to any public authority looking to implement telecare.