1.7 million adults could be at risk during digital switchover

National telecare monitoring centre, Astraline, is calling on the private and social housing, health and care industries to get prepared for the digital switchover or risk the lives of 1.7 million older and potentially vulnerable adults.

First Published: 12/02/2021

It comes in response to a recent report* from the representative body for technology enabled care services, the TSA and the Department of Health & Social Care, that suggests 1.7 million people currently rely on Technology Enabled Care (TEC).

Housing, health and care industries are mainly responsible for the delivery of TEC services, like personal alarms and fall detectors, into the homes of older and vulnerable people, with the majority still operating analogue-based products supported on the old public switched telephony network (PSTN).  By 2025, the old PSTN will be completely phased out and replaced with an all-digital network. The roll out of the new network by BT will take place over the next four to five years with some parts of the country switching earlier.

It is not fully understood what impact the switch will have and whether or not these products will continue to work under the new digital system.

Astraline is an early adopter of end-to-end digital services to fully support the switchover. It is headed up by industry leader and Director of Innovation Joe McLoughlin. He commented: “Together these industries serve nearly two million vulnerable individuals with telecare and telehealth services using alarm monitoring centres like ours. The vast majority are yet to make provision for the switchover in either their budgets or plans and this is not something that can be done overnight. This process will take years so we are encouraging people to get started now.”

He continued: “The implications of not delivering the switch successfully in a timely fashion is unthinkable. We are often the only support and help for some older people and even a lapse of a few days without their monitoring service could be devastating.”

Telecare is often a life-critical service; it works by sending a signal or message from the person in need to a monitoring centre where a team is on hand to provide advice or to get help. When in need, help is alerted; the user will press their alarm button, which is usually on a pendant, wearable product or smart watch.

As well as offering a life-saving response, it can also be the only human contact some older people have. With social isolation on the rise, and only set to worsen, this is fast becoming a critical issue for the safeguarding of one of our most vulnerable sections of our society.

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