TREATMENT BY TELECARE! – Brown’s alternative to District General Hospitals and elderly care

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Speaking yesterday to charities, NHS workers, trade unions and local government leaders, prime minister Brown announced the publication of a consultation document on ‘options for reforming our current system of care and support’.

In a speech delivered at the King’s Fund charity in central London, Brown said he understood peoples’ ‘anxieties’ about having to sell the family home to pay for care and ‘family worries about providing physical care that is needed’.

He listed ‘three major issues which reform will need to address’.

These were ‘new financial pressures’ because ‘we are all living longer’; and ‘demand for personalisation of care and for independence’.

His third ‘reform’ is to help people save for their old age.

He went on to say ‘we must consider, both realistically and imaginatively, how health and social care might work better together to meet their needs.

‘With more than half the NHS budget and around two thirds of that of social care now spent on the over 65s, there could be real added value from closer collaboration.’

Health secretary Johnson announced ‘an intense six month debate about the future shape of care and support services’.

He said that ‘funding is a vital part of this debate’.

He added: ‘It is also a question of individual choice, enabling people to live as independently as possible for as long as possible.

‘Today we are rolling out a £31 million programme to test the potential of innovative technologies like telecare in supporting care for those with complex health and social care needs.’

He concluded the purpose is ‘to help people manage their conditions better themselves.’

The Department of Health yesterday launched a pilot of the ‘Whole System Demonstrator Programme’ to ‘test the potential of innovative technologies like Telecare and Telehealth in supporting care for those with complex health and social care needs.

It added: ‘The pilot is being rolled out across Kent, Cornwall and Newham where people with complex health and social care needs such as diabetes, heart and chest problems and the elderly and the frail will use the technology.’

‘Clients can also trigger requests for help should they fall and automated safety devices will be installed to ensure people are able to live at home for longer.’

The DoH said: ‘Benefits of the scheme are expected to be, reduced emergency admissions, reduced use of the acute hospital sector and reduced dependence on carehome settings.

‘If successful, then savings generated by reduced admissions could potentially more than offset the cost of the initial investment in the technology.’

A DoH spokeswoman told News Line, people will be supplied with ‘TVs, broadband connections, wristband devices to monitor blood pressure’, and when pressed, she said they would also be issued with computers if necessary.

DoH notes said ‘we expect a £6 billion “funding gap” for social care’ in 2008.

‘If current levels of service provision and patterns of care continued, public expenditure on Personal Social Services for adults is projected to rise from £12.7 billion in 2007, to reach £24.1 billion in 2026 and £40.9 billion in 2041 at 2005 prices.

• Telecare is the continuous, automatic and remote monitoring of real-time emergencies and lifestyle changes over time in order to manage the risks associated with independent living.

• Telehealth is the delivery of healthcare at a distance using electronic means of communication – usually from service user to clinician e.g. a service user measuring their vital signs at home and this data being transmitted via a telehealth monitor to a clinician.

Trade unions and charities would not comment on the issue.