Homes to get Skype and sensors in bid to tackle care crisis

An elderly woman with an lectronic pill tray. Picture: EM Welch/REX/Shutterstock
An elderly woman with an lectronic pill tray. Picture: EM Welch/REX/Shutterstock
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Health chiefs are turning to technology in a bid to cure the care crisis that has rocked the Capital in the wake of one of the worst inspection reports ever published.

Motion sensors will be installed in more homes and Skype-like systems will allow carers to monitor patients from a remote location.

Officials want to ease the pressure on over-stretched staff and allow them to focus on frail and elderly people with the greatest needs.

Hundreds of elderly people have been left stuck in hospital because care packages are not being arranged.

The Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership was criticised by the Care Inspectorate for not developing early intervention and prevention services to help older people remain in their own homes and avoid hospital admissions.

The report found patients were having to wait 100 days on average even to have their needs assessed, while the range of services was hard to understand for both staff and older people and many were not getting the care they needed.

Delivery of “key processes” was “unsatisfactory”, the worst possible rating, while in four other areas the new body tasked with improving services for the elderly in the Capital was judged “weak”.

Now they plan to expand services under the banner of Technology Enabled Care, including access to Telecare online health and wellbeing services. A potential roll-out of a Skype equivalent is being planned that would allow a carer to see if the elderly person is taking their medicine alongside existing services including an alarm service so people can send a message to a council response team who will react over the telephone or visit.

Motion sensors and floor pads next to patient’s beds will also be increased and there are plans to amalgamate services that currently provide equipment, community alarms and carry out home adaptations for the elderly.

Professional services giant Ernst & Young, one of the so-called “big four” accountancy firms, has been assisting the council to accelerate its use of technology. The overall aim is to keep the elderly at home for longer and cut down travelling to GPs and hospital.

Rob McCulloch-Graham, chief officer of the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, said they were facing an extra demand on services due to an increasing population and the fact people are living longer.

He believes using the Telecare system will mean staff can focus on those requiring the most care.

He said: “It does free up carers to look after people with more acute needs.

“You just have to be aware that quite a few people don’t want carers coming in – they just want to lead their own lives and look after themselves and Telecare enables that to happen.

“If we didn’t have it then we would have to do a number of regular visits, going into people’s homes and stuff – so it does actually help with our capacity.

“Most people don’t want to be pestered with people coming in at certain times of the day and stuff like that.”

However, Richard Baker, policy and communications manager at Age Scotland, said: “Telecare and new technology can be important in delivering care to older people, but for the majority of older people who need care it will be necessary for a carer to provide that service.

“Too many older people suffer from loneliness and isolation, and for many it will be the case that their carer is their main form of human contact.

“So while telecare has an important role it cannot replace what an actual carer can do or the importance of personal support and contact. It cannot be an alternative to recruiting the staff our health and social care services need.”

The partnership says there is a need to attract more workers into the care profession but this is proving difficult as labour is scarce in Edinburgh, with competition for workers intensifying and numbers of new hotel, leisure, retail and call centre developments threatening the ability to recruit and retain care workers.

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk