Around 650 people are using new assistive care technologies as part of the Whole System Demonstrator project, according to the Department of Health.

The WSD project was launched last May and hopes to recruit 6,000 users to test telehealth and telecare solutions in Newham, Cornwall and Kent. The project is due to run for a minimum of two years.

Tim Ellis, WSD programme manager at the DH, told a roadshow hosted by the WSD Action Network that the complexity of the implementation process meant it was taking an average of 80 days from gaining the consent of a GP practice to patients going ‘live’ on the trial.

Ellis said the WSD programme had thrown up a number of “unexpected” challenges. He said it had discovered that although the target population was expected to have both and social care needs, it had found very few individuals eligible for both telehealth and telecare.

Data quality problems meant it was not always easy to identify eligible individuals from current records. And not all individuals welcomed telehealth or telecare solutions in their homes.

Ellis said some potential users either claimed they were well enough not to require the service or did not want to be reminded about their condition on a daily basis.

The DH said the programme had seen drop-out at every stage, even once patients had consented to take part.

Other problems encountered include difficulties in arranging installation during working hours, as candidates are often unavailable for visits.

The project had also assumed that the technologies selected would be available throughout the life of the trial and had not taken account of product recall and supplier administration.

Integrating data sharing between multiple organisations also took time to establish and meant data sharing agreements had to be drawn up.

Martin Scarfe, WSD director in Newham, told the roadshow that the project needed to understand when patients were too ill to take part in the trial. He said all three sites needed to work together to decide when someone should be excluded from a baseline assessment.

The conference was the first of eight regional events being hosted by the WSDAN network to disseminate learning from the WSD. The next event, now fully booked, will be held in Birmingham. It will be followed by a roadshow in Leeds in June.