Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, visited East Ayrshire Council’s Risk Management Centre this week to see some of the technology that helps people to live more independent lives.
He heard that many of the 3,000 people who are in receipt of the Council’s community alarm service now also get additional support through telecare.
East Ayrshire Council has been using telecare peripheral devices such as smoke detectors, fall detectors, bed occupancy sensors, epilepsy sensors, door monitors and medication dispensers since 2001. There are currently 521 service users in East Ayrshire who have some form of telecare device fitted and all of these are monitored from the Risk Management Centre at Council Headquarters in Kilmarnock.
As a further development in East Ayrshire a telehealth project based within Dalmellington Medical Practice is supporting 20 people to manage their chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at home using a Telehealth POD, which resembles an iPad. All information that users input about their vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure is sent to the GP practice where results are checked. Any individuals who display cause for concern would then be contacted by phone by a clinician and if required, a visit would be arranged either by the community nurse or GP.
Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of the Council, said: “In the past twenty years we have undertaken a journey from a Kare Alarm system in the Kilmarnock area to a community alarm service for the whole of East Ayrshire based in Galston to now an integrated telecare system in our Risk Management Centre that has some of the most sophisticated technology available.
“All of this is supported by a very human face of both our call handlers and our mobile responders who are available 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
“We are proud of our current service and we see evidence that it helps people stay at home rather than go into hospitals or care homes and also helps people get home from hospital as soon as they can.
“But we are not complacent and we, along with our NHS colleagues, see our next real opportunity to integrate telehealth and maybe even telemedicine to our existing infrastructure. We see opportunities that this will deliver real positive outcomes for people and will also contribute to the sustainability of our future health and social care services.”
The Minister heard first hand, via video link from East Ayrshire resident, Mrs Jessie Chalmers, who told the minister how the technology has made a real difference to how she has been able to manage her COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “This is a fantastic example of how using innovative technologies as part of effective service redesign can enable people to be treated as close to home as possible and reduce the need for hospital admissions.
“This is the way forward for the future of healthcare and Ayrshire is leading the way. Scotland has already made significant progress on developing and expanding new technologies, and other countries will be looking to Ayrshire as they look for different ways of working within heath and social care. I congratulate everyone involved in this Ayrshire initiative.”
Great-grandmother Jessie, said: “When the practice first suggested one of the pods, I wasn’t sure, but the longer I use the pod the more confidence I get. When I go out I know how far I can go before I need to use my inhaler. The pod monitors my oxygen level, pulse and sputum, so I know if I’m getting a chest infection and can start taking my antibiotics. It also gives me confidence to talk to my doctor about what I think is wrong.”
Telecare is available to anyone living in East Ayrshire and can either link into an individual’s community alarm or be a standalone system in some cases. The Council, in partnership with NHS Ayrshire and Arran, also provides telehealth services which can support people with long-term health conditions to take control and regain their independence.