The evidence from countless studies and enquiries is that the UK is not ready for ageing. A growing number of people are growing old without children, many more are outliving partners and friends. Loneliness and social isolation are at last being recognised as serious public health challenges. They are not just limiting people’s opportunities to enjoy a good later life they shortening lives too.

The antidote to the negative impact of loneliness is maintaining and building social connections. People who live connected lives live happier lives.

 

Embracing Technology

 

In so many parts of our lives we are embracing technology and telecommunications to enhance our lives, stay connected and well. Older people are now the fastest adopters of smart phones and tablets, using the power of the internet to enrich their lives.

Meanwhile our health and care systems have often been slow to adopt technology that would empower people, improve patient experience and boost productivity. Technology is too often being bolted on to 1950s care processes rather than being embedded in 21st century models of care.

There are plenty of examples of good practice but lots of evidence of limited spread. NHS England’s Vanguard and Test-Bed programmes are adopting and sharing approaches to adopting technology across large populations.

Birmingham City and Hampshire County Council’s are examples of local authorities working with the industry to find new solutions to improve service delivery and manage demand. Birmingham has partnered with the Silverline Charity to offer a new prevention and reassurance service.  Hampshire has identified potential benefits from telecare amounting to £3.4 million over three years and improved outcomes.

 

Workforce Pressures

 

Funding and workforce pressures on both the NHS and social care make redesigning service delivery an imperative. According to research by the ILC-UK by 2020 there will be a 200,000 shortfall in the care workforce. Making the best possible use of the workforce, enriching their roles, promoting the relational aspects of their work will be essential and technology will be essential to achieving the productivity gain and meeting the expectations of service users and their families.

Bundling of services and partnering with organisations that sell directly to the public, like high street retailers, pharmacies and home care providers, offers a route to market and a way of driving uptake. A reassurance and prevention bundle of round the clock passive monitoring, two-way video interaction and self-care training could add to the value proposition of home care businesses.

Other bundles of human and technology enabled support could aid co-ordinated care for people with more complex health and care needs. This will be critical to delivering more health and care at and close to home.

Drawing on forty years of practical experience of implementing tele solutions to health and care challenges, the TSA is well placed to support the industry partnering with NHS, social care and housing commissioners and providers to deliver the connected services people want to maintain connected lives.