A new telecare project will use technology to improve the quality of life for older people in four European countries, supporting independent living though better communications and more integration of health and social care.

The European Union-backed CommonWell project aims to support independent living and improve the quality of life for older people and those with long-term conditions.

A total of 400 users across four locations in Europe will receive the newly integrated services for at least twelve months. The results of evaluating the pilot operation will be used to extend service provision and promote the wider uptake of this model of care across Europe.

Some 12 partners are cooperating in the project, which is being funded by the European Commission and coordinated by consultants Empirica, to deliver ICT-enabled health and social care services in four Member States. Tunstall Healthcare is leading the technical work.

The integrated services are to support the effective management of chronic disease, and to address issues which affect independence, such as reduced agility, vision or hearing, in order to significantly improve the quality of life for older people and their families.

The project members are Milton Keynes Council, Stitching Smart Homes, Ev. Johanneswerk und Johanneswerk im Stadtteil, Empresa Pública de Emergencias Sanitarias, Fundación Andaluza de Servicios Sociales (FASS), Tunstall Healthcare, InterSystems, Work Research Centre and Empirica Communication and Technology Research.

Paul Timmers, head of the European Commission’s ‘ICT for Inclusion’ Unit said the project will addresses the challenging issue of integrated working between social services and health care. “We support projects like CommonWell to get the results of innovative new technologies and services to consumers faster.”

Timmers said projects like CommonWell should help make it possible to deliver cheaper and better healthcare with ICT. “These kind of solutions are ever more important to help Europe face demographic and financial challenges."

Empirica director Simon Robinson said: “CommonWell will be the first European project to show how today’s internet-based communication can link care providers across social and health care organisations…”

Steve Sadler, chief technology officer at Tunstall Healthcare, added: “CommonWell will also improve the way primary and social care providers currently cooperate, helping to deliver a truly integrated model of care, with significant benefits to the people most in need.”

Milton Keynes will pilot management of chronic disease management for older people suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in Milton Keynes, and Eindhoven will focus on Chronic Heart Failure (CHF).

FASS and Johanneswerk are the pilot sites focussing on improving services for independent living for older people. FASS currently operates the largest centre for social alarm in Europe with over 90,000 clients across Andalusia in Spain. Johanneswerk runs several hospitals, a social alarm service and provides domiciliary care.