Tunstall Blog – Why assistive technology needs to be part of the conversation on reforming adult social care

CCN Blogs | 23 September 2021

Assistive technology (AT) is not a new concept, and it has been delivering significant benefits to millions of people in the UK* for many years, such as increasing the independence of those in care.

However, its deployment varies considerably from council to council, both in terms of the number of people able to access it and the type of technology available. And yet, our report with the County Councils Network showed that 75% of county local authorities believe there is potential to do much more with AT, helping them to both increase the number of people they are able to support, and improve the quality of care.

Adult social care in England is in urgent need of reform; this is widely accepted. Clearly the issue is a complex one, but as with many other aspects of our lives, technology could have a key role to play in enabling services to be delivered in a different way and as such it should be considered when looking at system reform

We have seen many examples of how COVID-19 forced rapid change, such as the introduction of phone and video consultations by the NHS, and it’s vital that we don’t lose the gains made as we begin to look to the future.  For local authorities, using the power of technology to provide support to those who need it can provide an essential platform to enable more targeted and integrated delivery of health and care.

In rural areas in particular, for example, remote health monitoring can reduce the need for patients, carers and clinicians to travel, improving quality of life for patients, increasing caseload capacity for professionals and minimising risks of cross infection. The system identifies patients most in need of attention and can allow early identification of deterioration in health, enabling interventions to be made which avoid the need for more complex care.

Importantly, our report sets out a clear recommendation for guidelines and a framework for councils to collect and use this data ethically.

AT such as telecare provides 24 hour support, ensuring a professional response is available at the touch of a button, and enabling help to be sent automatically in the event of an emergency such as a fall or fire. These relatively low-cost systems offer background reassurance to help maintain independence, as well as providing a platform to build other services upon, such as domiciliary care, day centres and respite care.

Technology can also care for carers. As we emerge from the pandemic, we face a post-lockdown challenge of carer burnout, and putting technology in place can provide peace of mind to help them to carry on caring, and prevent or delay admission to residential care. For example, systems can be introduced that will wake the carer if the person they care for leaves their bed during the night, and may be at risk of falling or leaving the home alone. Such technology means carers can get a good night’s sleep knowing they will be woken if they are needed, rather than trying to listen for events, or make regular checks.

Technology isn’t just reactive, and can also be used proactively. For example, systems can be easily installed that monitor activities of daily living and can inform care planning, as well as enabling preventative care. Increased visits to the bathroom could indicate the onset of a urinary tract infection, or conversely decreased use of the bathroom and kitchen may signal a possible decline in self-care. Making family and/or professionals aware of such trends means appropriate support can be offered at the right time.

Technology alone cannot provide all the answers for social care, and importantly should be used to enhance, not replace human contact. But when it comes to the long-awaited adult social care green paper, AT should be part of the conversation when it comes to reforming the system.

The last eighteen months have shown many of us how technology can do more to help us connect in meaningful ways, both professionally and personally. We should not miss the opportunity to fulfil its potential as we engineer the next generation of social care.

You can access the full report here.







Zillah Moore, Marketing Director at Tunstall Healthcare